Rights groups support gender discrimination class action against Wal-Mart

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Women's Law Center (NWLC) and 32 other organizations on Tuesday filed [brief, PDF] an amicus curiae brief in the US Supreme Court [official website], supporting a class action discrimination lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart [corporate website]. The suit was filed 10 years ago by a group of female employees claiming systemic discrimination against the company's female associates across the country. The female plaintiffs claim that Wal-Mart violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act [materials] because they were paid lower wages and given fewer promotions than their less qualified male counterparts. The brief states that sex stereotypes and subjective decision-making practices led to discrimination against women. Examples of sex stereotyping in the brief include: managers stating that they believed women were not the breadwinners for their family so they deserved to earn less, that they should be limited to family caretaking roles and that women should be assigned limited roles within the company. The brief also accuses of Wal-Mart being a "boys club":

One woman attested that workers must be part of the "informal network versus the formal network" to be successful because Wal-Mart is "a very cli[que]-oriented environment" in which women were referred to as "girls" and "Janie Qs." Another woman reported that her manager "ran the store like a boys' club" in which male managers regularly socialized with male hourly workers, leaving her to run the store. Another was told by a senior vice president that she would not advance because she did not "hunt, fish, or do other typically-male activities" with the "boys" in the company and was not "a part of the boys club." [Another] woman employee was told that promotion was based on "whom you knew, not what you knew"
The brief also argues that a class action lawsuit is necessary to overcome challenges faced by the plaintiffs in finding information about wages, to pool together their resources so they could afford to bring the lawsuit, and to protect them against retaliation.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari [JURIST report] in Wal-Mart v. Dukes in December 2010. The court is set to determine whether claims for monetary relief can be certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) [text] and whether the class certification ordered under this rule was consistent with FRCP 23(a). The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit upheld class certification [JURIST report] in April 2010. The class is estimated to include more than 1.5 million women employed by Wal-Mart since December 26, 1998, which makes it the largest class action lawsuit in US history.

 

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