Allegations that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. pays female employees less than their male counterparts and promotes them less often are continuing with a new lawsuit.
About six years after the U.S. Supreme Court decertified a class of 1.6 million current and former female Wal-Mart workers making essentially the same allegations of gender-based wage discrimination, reasoning that such a large group didn’t have claims similar enough to continue at the class level, another, smaller group of women are trying their hand.
Kathleen Forbes, Lisa O’Brian, Lou Ann Hawes, Linda Ray, Judith Danneman, Brigette Bramley and Edna Remington are accusing the retailer of violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which generally prohibits companies with 15 or more workers from discriminating on the basis of sex, as well as race and religion.
All of the women are former employees of Wal-Mart, and most worked for the retailer for a decade or more. The lawsuit comes about five months after after Betty Dukes, the lead plaintiff in the earlier decertified action, died at age 67.
And the women cite Dukes v. Wal-Mart in their Monday complaint, filed with a federal court in Florida, claiming they were all members of that class, but that their new suit coincides with “new guidelines” set down by the Supreme Court. The main difference seems to be that the allegations center around their particular regions of work — Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Virginia — instead of nationally, as before.
“The members of each class were subjected to gender discrimination as a result of the specific policies and practices in place in their particular region,” the plaintiffs wrote in their complaint. “In each of the above regions, Wal-Mart maintained a pattern or practice of gender discrimination in compensation and promotion. And, in each of the above regions, the compensation and promotion policies and practices of Wal-Mart had a disparate impact, not justified by business necessity, on its female employees in the region.”
Plaintiffs said generally, Wal-Mart managers set pay, but are not required “to use job-related criteria such as job performance or experience” in setting and altering wages. The alleged result is a work environment where “women who hold salaried and hourly positions have been regularly paid less on average than similarly situated men, although on average the women have more seniority and higher performance ratings than the men.”
According to the complaint, an analysis of pay rates in each region in this case allegedly shows between 72 and 90 percent of stores operate with women earning less than men at similar levels of employment.
Three plaintiffs filed their own complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the remaining four are relying on EEOC complaints filed in the Dukes and other cases on this same issue, giving them the right to sue within a period of time.
A Wal-Mart spokesman however noted that these new claims are the same a source in a similar case that was recently dismissed as untimely.
“The class the plaintiffs now allege is no more appropriate than the nationwide class the Supreme Court has already rejected,” the spokesman said. “Wal-Mart has had strong policies against discrimination in place for many years and has a long history of providing advancement opportunities for our female associates. As we have said all along, these claims are unsuitable for class treatment because the situations of each individual are so different, and because the claims are not representative of the hundreds of thousands of women who work at Wal-Mart.”
Wal-Mart has been accused repeatedly of hiring, wage and promotion discrimination based on gender throughout the last several years, but plaintiffs have been largely unsuccessful in their claims.
One notable case brought by the EEOC ended in 2010, with Wal-Mart agreeing to pay nearly $12 million in back wages and compensatory damages for allegedly refusing openly to hire women at a distribution center in Kentucky, despite their qualifications.
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