Wal-Mart Asks Supreme Court to Block Giant Gender Bias Lawsuit

Article excerpt

Wal-Mart faces what would be the largest class-action employment lawsuit in history over claims of gender bias. It has asked the Supreme Court to intervene.

Retail giant Wal-Mart on Wednesday asked the US Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling allowing more than 1.5 million women employees of the company to join together in what would become the largest class-action employment lawsuit in history.

The lawsuit filed by six women in 2001 charges that Wal-Mart engaged in gender discrimination by paying female employees less than men, and in passing women over for promotions that went to men. It seeks billions of dollars in damages.

Gender discrimination lawsuits are usually litigated one employee at a time. But courts may allow plaintiffs who were harmed under similar circumstances by the same person or company to join together in a common class of litigants to pursue their lawsuit.

Lawyers for Wal-Mart are fighting court rulings in California upholding the creation of the massive class of plaintiffs. It includes all women who worked in any of the company's 3,400 domestic stores since 1998.

The most recent ruling came in April when the full Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted 6 to 5 to uphold the class action status of the lawsuit. Judges upholding the suit said the large number of affected women didn't matter and that the suit would be manageable.

Dissenting judges said the large size of the class suggests that the women may not share a common injury. …