Wal-Mart Warned of Gender Discrimination Possibilities Before Lawsuit
June 10, 2010
In a recent blog, our California employment attorneys reported on the class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart that has been going on since 2001, and is said to be the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in history. In an April ruling, the group of employees was given the go-ahead to move forward in the class action lawsuit--and sue Wal-Mart for a systematic pattern of discrimination based on gender in compensation and promotion.
According to a recent New York Times article, in 1995, the retailer hired a powerful law firm to study the possibility of such legal battles. The firm reportedly found gender disparities in compensation and promotion throughout the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club stores.
This confidential report performed by Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, found that female employees of Wal-Mart made less money than male employees in many categories of employment. Salaried male employees reportedly earned 19% more money than women. One statistic found that men were reportedly five and a half times more likely than women to receive a promotion into a managerial position that was salaried.
The report warned the company of the possibility of gender discrimination, after finding huge differences in job assignments and roles due to sex. In one finding, fifty-five percent of women were more likely to start as a cashiers, as opposed to 12 percent of men. Twenty-nine percent of men started in receiving roles that usually paid twenty percent more than the cashier's jobs--as opposed to seven percent of female employees.
Wal-mart was reportedly encouraged to take positive steps to promote women and minorities in the company, like posting job opportunities, and creating specific goals for promotion. Although company documents reportedly show that Wal-Mart's response and actions to the report were incomplete, experts claim that because this 1995 report was protected by attorney-client privilege, the chances of introducing it as evidence in the current case are slim.
Wal-mart denies any discrimination, and stated that the claims should be tried individually and not as a class action--as a class action lawsuit could bring in over one million employees, and could cost the company billions of dollars. In April, the lower courts brought a ruling that the class action case could move forward, but Wal-mart is reportedly planning to attempt to overturn the class certification in the Supreme Court.
Report Warned Wal-Mart of Risks Before Bias Suit, New York Times, June 23, 2010
Court Strikes Blow to Wal-Mart in Sex Bias Suit, Reuters, April 26, 2010
Wal-Mart Gender Case Divides Court, The New York Times, April 26, 2010
Appeals Court Upholds Women's Right to Sue Wal-Mart for Alleged Discrimination, The Washington Post, April 27, 2010
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