By  on July 19, 2010

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court granted Wal-Mart Stores Inc. an extension in order to file an appeal in a landmark gender-discrimination lawsuit.

Justice Anthony Kennedy approved the application for an extension until Aug. 25. A 90-day period in which Wal-Mart could file the appeal was to expire on July 25.

In April, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 6 to 5 that a class-action lawsuit alleging gender discrimination against the retailer’s female workers could go to trial. The class action stemmed from a complaint brought by Wal-Mart employee Betty Dukes and five other plaintiffs in 2001, alleging the retailer’s corporate structure discriminated against women in terms of pay and promotion opportunities, among other accusations.

In 2004, the U.S. District Court for Northern California conferred class-action status in the case to female employees who had worked at Wal-Mart stores in the U.S. since 1998. The retailer subsequently appealed to the federal appeals court in San Francisco, which reduced the size of the class action by as much as two-thirds.

Jeff Gearhart, Wal-Mart executive vice president and general counsel, has denied the company discriminates against women and indicated an appeal to the Supreme Court is likely. Attorneys for the workers estimate the class still contains more than 1 million women.

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