First new Wal-Mart bias suit filed after Supreme Court ruling

The Daily Record Newswire

The first of what promises to be many smaller-sized job discrimination class actions against Wal-Mart in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling barring a single massive class has been filed in California.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs in Dukes v. Wal-Mart - using the same named plaintiffs as the original action that sought to certify 1.5 million past and present female Wal-Mart employees alleging pay discrimination - filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Oct. 27. They claim that Wal-Mart, the nation's largest private employer, discriminated against them on the basis of their sex by denying them equal pay or promotions, in violation of Title VII.

In June, the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs could not be certified as a single class under Rule 23(a) because their claims did not have sufficient commonality for class-wide resolution, since pay decisions were made at the discretion of individual managers.

Brad Seligman, plaintiffs' lead counsel from the Berkeley, Calif.-based Impact Fund, said that the Supreme Court ruling did not reach the merits of the case, and the litigation would move forward in district courts across the country with smaller, more cohesive classes.

"We're back," Seligman said in a statement. "This case and the fight for justice for the women of Wal-Mart are not over." The California action involves an estimated 90,000 current or former female employees of Wal-Mart and Sam's Club.

According to plaintiffs' counsel, the new action relies on new statistical evidence of pay disparities that is focused on the California regions, which was not part of the original case.

In a statement, Wal-Mart attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. said the legal theories advanced by the plaintiffs are the same as those struck down by the Supreme Court.

"These lawyers seem more intent on alleging classes for their publicity value than their legal virtue," Boutrous said.

Published: Thu, Nov 17, 2011