Wal-Mart seeks end to refiled gender-bias lawsuit
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Women who refiled a gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc have failed to come to grips with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended their nationwide class action against the company, Wal-Martargued in a court filing.
Plaintiffs alleging the world’s largest retailer denied them pay raises and promotions because of their gender are regrouping after the high court last year dismantled a class of up to 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart workers.
The Supreme Court’s decision has since rippled out beyond Wal-Mart and curtailed the ability of plaintiffs to sue collectively in other cases.
The Wal-Mart workers filed a reformulated lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court in October, saying they were confining their allegations to California. The lawsuit is part of a strategy to bring more narrowly tailored class actions.
But in a motion to dismiss filed late on Monday, Wal-Mart said the smaller proposed class action actually seeks to cover all women who were employed at any Walmart in any region that included a California store.
Read literally, that would include most states west of the Mississippi River, Wal-Mart argued.
“This attempt to cobble back together the original class badly misses the point,” Wal-Mart said. “Without the ‘glue’ of a common policy or practice holding individual claims together, there is no justification for adjudicating them collectively. And plaintiffs still fail to allege any such ‘glue.'”
However Brad Seligman, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the refiled lawsuit is a “much different case” than the one rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Instead of relying on nationwide statistical patterns and anecdotal evidence provided by plaintiffs, the new lawsuit alleges specific discriminatory statements made by the district and regional managers that have decision-making authority over pay and promotions, he said.
“This is an extraordinarily strong case,” Seligman said.
In their amended lawsuit, the plaintiffs also cited a 2004 meeting where then Wal-Mart Chief Executive Tom Coughlin told district managers that “women tend to be better at information processing,” while men are better at focusing on a single objective.
In its filing on Monday, Wal-Mart called these allegations “irrelevant.” Even if true, such evidence of a discriminatory corporate culture would not be sufficient to show that every class member suffered intentional discrimination, Wal-Mart argued.
Wal-Mart proposed a May hearing date for its dismissal motion.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is Betty Dukes, Patricia Surgeson, Edith Arana, Deborah Gunter and Christine Kwapnoski, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, 01-2252.
(Reporting By Dan Levine; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Maureen Bavdek)