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The U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cannot proceed as a class action.
“We are pleased with today’s ruling and believe the Court made the right decision,” said Gisel Ruiz, Walmart U.S. executive VP of people, Walmart U.S. “Walmart has had strong policies against discrimination for many years. The plaintiffs’ claims were worlds away from showing a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy. Walmart has a long history of providing advancement opportunities for our female associates and will continue its efforts to build a robust pipeline of future female leaders.”
The court’s action reversed an earlier decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which Ruiz said effectively ends the lawsuit in its current form. The appeals court had ruled that more than a million female employees nationwide could join in the lawsuit accusing Walmart of paying women less and giving them fewer promotions and seeking billions of dollars. In a 5-4 vote, the Supreme Court said there too many women in too many jobs to wrap into one lawsuit.
The ruling could make it more difficult for plaintiffs to mount similar lawsuits against large employers. Now, the handful of women who launched the case may pursue claims on their own, the Associated Press reported.
Citing 2001 data, the lawsuit alleged that female employees at Walmart are grossly underrepresented among managers, holding 14 percent of store manager positions versus more than 80 percent of lower-ranking, hourly, supervisory jobs, AP reported. Walmart responded that women in its retail stores made up two-thirds of all employees and two-thirds of all managers at the time.