By  on March 3, 2010

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. will pay close to $12 million to settle a lawsuit that accused it of systematically denying jobs to women at a Kentucky distribution center.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed the class action suit in 2001 in U.S. District Court in London, Ky. The federal agency alleged that between 1998 and 2005, the retailer hired male applicants for entry-level jobs at its warehouse there while ignoring equally qualified female candidates. According to the EEOC, Wal-Mart officials told interviewees that such order-filling positions were not suitable for women, a violation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Wal-Mart signed off on an order settling the case on Monday. Under the settlement, the company will pay $11.7 million in back wages and compensatory damages. The retailer also agreed to place female class members in its first 50 available order-filler jobs, place a female class member in every second job for the subsequent 50 openings and then hire one class member for every third open position. The company will also put up $250,000 toward the cost of a claims administrator who will oversee the settlement.

EEOC senior trial attorney Nancy Dean Edmonds said Tuesday that the administrator would mail letters to more than 4,000 potential class members and work with the agency to determine each claimant’s eligibility.

“We’re pleased this matter has been resolved,” wrote Greg Rossiter, a Wal-Mart spokesman. “These claims do not reflect Wal-Mart’s continuing commitment to build an even more diverse and inclusive workplace through hiring and training initiatives.”

The settlement calls for Wal-Mart to use questions previously submitted to the EEOC when interviewing applicants for order-filler jobs and to file compliance reports with the EEOC.

In recent years, Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, has settled a number of outstanding labor lawsuits. In 2008 it announced plans to pay up to $640 million to end 63 wage-and-hour suits in courts across the country.

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