E-Alerts & Press Releases

Wal-Mart Class Action Is Certified. PJC and six firms represent 1.6 million women plaintiffs in largest class action

The PJC is incredibly excited to convey this late breaking news: the federal court in California has certified a nationwide class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart for discrimination in wages and promotions against its more than 1.6 million female employees. This class action covers more employees than any other in history, in part because it covers company-wide practices against the country's largest employer. The case will now proceed towards trial or settlement on a nation-wide basis. The Public Justice Center is one of seven organizations representing the women (2 other public interest organizations and 4 private law firms). A press release from the Impact Fund below summarizes the judge's decision.


June 22, 2004

Contact: Deborah Schwartz (301) 897-8838/(240) 355-8838

Federal Judge Orders Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., the Nation's Largest Private Employer, To Stand Trial for Company-Wide Sex Discrimination

Class Certification Creates Largest Civil Rights Class Action Ever

San Francisco, CA. (June 22, 2004) In a decision released today, U.S. District Court Judge Martin Jenkins ruled that six current and former Wal-Mart employees from California may represent all female employees of Wal-Mart who worked at its U.S. stores anytime since December 26, 1998 in a nationwide sex discrimination class action lawsuit. Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (N.D. Cal. No C-01-2252). In certifying the case as the largest civil rights class action ever certified against a private employer, the Judge described the case as historic in nature, dwarfing other employment discrimination cases that came before it. The Judge also noted that this case is being ruled upon in the year that marks the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education. This anniversary serves as a reminder of the importance of the courts in addressing the denial of equal treatment under the law whenever and by whomever it occurs. The suit charges that Wal-Mart discriminates against its female retail employees in pay and promotions. The class in this case includes more than 1.6 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart retail stores in America, including Wal-Mart discount stores, super centers, neighborhood stores, and Sam's Clubs. " Up until now, Wal-Mart has never faced a trial like this, " explained Brad Seligman, executive director of The Impact Fund, the lead counsel for the women. Lawsuits by individual women had no more effect than a pinprick. Now, however, the playing field has been leveled. Wal-Mart will face the combined power of 1.6 million women in court. "Wal-Mart has been living in the America of thirty years ago, and those days are over. Certification of this class shows that no employer, not even the world's largest employer, is above the law. This decision sets the stage for women at Wal-Mart to get their fair share of pay and promotions which have been denied them for years," said plaintiffs' co-counsel Joseph M. Sellers, who heads the civil rights practice at Washington D.C. 's Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll, P.L.L.C., which represents the women in the case. Wal-Mart, a global retail giant, reported sales in excess of $256 billion in the fiscal year ending January 31, 2004. Currently Wal-Mart owns and operates 3,566 stores in the United States. Wal-Mart employs more than 1.2 million employees in the United States, two thirds of whom are women, more women than any other company in the nation. Wal-Mart maintained that, despite claims to the contrary, it did not operate as a centralized unit, and that discrimination is not systemic. Plaintiffs argued that the corporation's procedures and policies are indeed highly standardized, and the company more than able to track discriminatory practices. " This ruling brings Wal-Mart one giant step closer to being as vigilant in accounting for equal pay and promotional opportunities for women as it is in keeping track of its stock of toothpaste, tires and t-shirts," said plaintiffs' co-counsel Irma D. Herrera, executive director of San Francisco-based Equal Rights Advocates. The Judge noted that in their case, plaintiffs present largely uncontested descriptive statistics which show that women working at Wal-Mart stores are paid less than men in every region, that pay disparities exist in most job categories, that the salary gap widens over time, that women take longer to enter management positions, and that the higher one looks in the organization the lower the percentage of women. The Court in reviewing all of the evidence found that together the evidence presented by the plaintiffs, raises an inference that Wal-Mart engages in discriminatory practices in compensation and promotion that affect all plaintiffs in a common manner. The female plaintiffs and the class in this lawsuit are represented by three public interest non-profit groups, The Impact Fund (Berkeley, CA.), Equal Rights Advocates (San Francisco), Public Justice Center (Baltimore, MD), and four private law firms of Cohen, Milstein, Hausfeld & Toll (Washington, D.C.) Davis Cowell & Bowe (SF) and New Mexico's Tinkler & Firth and Merit Bennett (Santa Fe, NM). Plaintiffs counsel includes some of the most experienced class action and sex discrimination attorneys in the country. ###

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