Wal-Mart Hit With Another Gender Discrimination Class-Action Lawsuit

Walmart women lawsuit Wal-Mart discriminated against female employees in its 451 Texas stores, according to a class action lawsuit filed Friday. Four months ago, the Supreme Court threw out a nationwide class action suit against the world's largest retailer, on the grounds that all of the store's 1.5 million female employees were too diverse to constitute a class. The new lawsuit makes a more modest claim to class status: over 45,000 former and current employees of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in Texas.

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The lawsuit was filed by Stephanie Odie on behalf of all women similarly affected by what she calls "a pattern or practice of discrimination in management track promotions." The lawsuit charges that these Wal-Mart employees were given no information about how to enter management or the management trainee program required for advancement to upper-level positions. Managers allegedly did not post opportunities, conduct open applications procedures, or specify what the qualifications or requirements were.


Stereotypes

The opaque and undocumented promotional process adversely affected Wal-Mart Stores' female employees, claims the complaint. Women were clearly underrepresented in management, compared to the company's largest competitors; plaintiff lawyers found that two-thirds of its hourly employees were women, but only one third of its managers were.

Managers allegedly relied on discriminatory stereotypes of female employees to justify passing them over for promotions or paying them less than their male colleagues.

A 1998 survey of managers mentioned in the lawsuit found a pervasive "good ole boy philosophy," and that some district managers "don't seem personally comfortable with women in leadership roles."

At a January 2004 meeting of Wal-Mart Stores' district managers presided over by then CEO Thomas Coughlin, the lawsuit claims that managers were told that the key to success was based on a "single focus to get the job done... women tend to be better at information processing. Men are better at focus single objective."

The lawsuit lists several instances in which managers told female employees that they were treated differently or paid less than men because they were women, and should be happy with what they had; that men had a family to support; that it was "a man thing"; and that they did not belong to the "good 'ole boy network."


One Woman's Story

In the lawsuit, Odle describes the obstacles that she personally faced in her eight years at Wal-Mart. Between 1991 and 1994, Odle was transferred to a number of Sam's Clubs, the Wal-Mart-owned membership-only retail warehouses, and ultimately promoted to assistant manager.

But over the next five years, she claims that management purposefully blocked her from reaching a higher position. She was suspended for five days in Sherman, Texas, for an alleged wrongdoing, denied access to the store, and forcibly transferred to Lubbock, Texas, to make room, she claims, for a male manager.

There, the three other assistant managers, all male, were given the required test for promotion, but her request for the same opportunity was denied. She was then placed on administrative leave for another fabricated wrongdoing, the lawsuit claims, "in order to make available a managerial position for a male manager from Arizona." She was terminated soon after.


A New Strategy

Odle's complaint, along with those of six other women, became the cornerstone of the monolithic class action suit Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, which spent a decade weaving its way through the courts. It was the largest civil rights class action lawsuit in U.S. history, and if successful, would have led to a payout of $1 billion or more, according to legal experts.

It was unsuccessful. The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the case, but rather dismissed the claim to class action status in a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines. Immediately afterward, Betty Dukes, the lead plaintiff, told reporters that "even though we didn't get the ruling that we hoped for, we still are determined to move forward and to present our case in court."

"Instead of one case, this case will be splintered into many pieces," Joseph M. Sellers, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said at the time.

At a news briefing on Thursday, Sellers said attorneys were pursuing a state-by-state strategy.

Last week, the case was refiled on behalf of an estimated 90,000 current and former female employees in California. Today, it was filed on behalf of female employees in Texas.

The plaintiffs are seeking changes in Wal-Mart Stores' promotion policies in Texas, its compensation, and punitive damages.

Company spokesman Greg Rossitier said the state-wide class action claims are as faulty as the nationwide one.


A Good Place For Women?

Wal-Mart Stores said in a 2010 statement that the corporation "has been recognized as a leader in fostering the advancement and success of women in the workplace."

In September, it pledged billions to "help empower women across its supply chain." The company said it would source $20 billion from female-owned businesses, train and educate hundreds of thousands of female employees, as well as factory and farm workers along their supply chain, and give $100 million in grants to female empowerment organizations.

Wal-Mart claimed that the campaign had nothing to do with the hyper-public lawsuit that had battered the store's image, despite failing in court.

Wal-Mart's Rossitier repeated this refrain on Thursday. "Wal-Mart is not the company the plaintiffs' lawyers say it is," he said. "Wal-Mart is a great place for women to work."


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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

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pslcitizen

Sue Wal-Mart...send them to China.

November 03 2011 at 2:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
MIKEY'S SCREEN

Oh Walmart, Walmart, Walmart! What are we gonna do with you? You have people getting beaten by people who are using your display of baseball bats in your stores, people being robbed in McDonalds that are in your stores, discrimination lawsuits, so on and so on and so on. You would think that by now, you would have gotten your act together (ooppp's. Gotta go. I'm late for my job at Walmart as a "greeter").

November 03 2011 at 1:16 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
X

only silly needy women work at wal mart

November 03 2011 at 12:40 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
X

only silly needy women work at wal mart

November 03 2011 at 12:36 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Jennie

what walmart needs IS A UNION.

November 03 2011 at 12:33 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Jennie's comment
X

yes, a union is needed, why finish high school when you get a over paid union job
why do you think thats cars cost sooo much??

November 03 2011 at 12:50 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tutu

I was in a group involved in a class action case one time and ended up with $12.50. The law firm on the other hand did really well for itself. The lawyers are the only people tht make out on class action cases.

November 02 2011 at 11:19 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
bullockmed

Wal Mart has made some effort to recruit and train more women in management as well as miniorities.
However, a few years before Sam died, David Glass and other management treated women like dirt.
I can still remember my DM calling the Warsaw Female Manager A Gd Bitch! He also used the N word behind close doors about African American. He was the Miniority DM of the Year. Of course, Sam was sick and not in his office or I assure you this type of thing would not have happened. Last I heard, Wal Mart had made this piece of SH## a VP over Super Centers. David proceeding to get rid of all the store managers who had signed on with Sam during the 1960s as pay back for revealing his leasing back a warehouse to Wal Mart which was forbiddened. All I can say as someone from former management, I am not surpised! I would hope Sam, Jr., Wendy, and other family members would require a new approach to miniorities in the work place. Since Sam the stores have gone downhill, they are trashy and consistently out of product you have to drive 15 miles to the next Wal Mart that does. I wonder who does the thinking and operational planning these days, obviously not anyone from the Walton Family, and it is overtly noted that Sam when to Heaven and Wal Mart went to Hell!

November 02 2011 at 11:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wireu

I have met several women manager at Walmart, maybe these who feel the need to sue are lousey employees and that is why they don't get the opportunity for promotions.

November 02 2011 at 9:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to wireu's comment
ashumate3

I think WalMart is very fair in their promotions, however, if you want a promotion you have to be willing to pack up and move. Based on what I have read about the suit is right WalMart does the same thing as many other companies do and that as you move up the ranks you got to move. The milatary has done this - Audie Murphy had to do it after the WWII was over along with Clifford Carwood "Lip" Lipton of Easy Company after the War. And by the way, the local WalMart I shop at has a woman manager who was transfered. SO GET OFF THAT SOAP BOX. These people only want money in their pockets - I thank they don't give a crap about promotion.

November 02 2011 at 9:00 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
SEXY SCORPIO

I had a 25 career with a monopoly telecommunications company. I deserved a promotion and my work performance was above average. I trained the entire San Francisco Marketing and Collections Call Center, 80 employees, and delivered "GOLDEN" results. Yet there was jealousy and because I was NOT one of the "click" of the chosen ones, managers rallied together and began to harass me. They stuck together, backed each up, and ultimately made up an excuse to terminate me. Well, the State Court referred my case to Federal Court after determining that the company had violated Federal Law in the manner they used to terminate me. The settlement agreement had a confidentially clause "NOT" to disclose the settlement and NO media exposure. So, you see....it does happen. This settlement, court battle, took 5 years. Don't be so quick to judge, because their are many people who still believe this was my fault, simply because they do not have all the facts. Yes, they made **** up and tried to make it stick, not knowing that I would persue it to a higher authority, or maybe they believed they are so BIG that nobody would listen.

November 02 2011 at 8:41 PM Report abuse -2 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SEXY SCORPIO's comment
stella

i bet it was comcast!

November 02 2011 at 10:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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