WalMart Facing Major Uphill Battle in Employment Lawsuit
Companies like to be in the black and if they can, they like to make history. For example, the first company ever to make a third party iPhone app or the first company to give all employees vacations to Bermuda is something to brag about.
One history setting item that's probably not on the list for company executives, is boasting the largest class-action employment lawsuit in U.S. history.
That's the case for embattled blue collar brand WalMart, who is in the middle of a lengthy dispute over alleged gender bias in pay and promotions.
A federal appeals court was divided 6-5, but ultimately allowed the combined multiparty litigation to move ahead to trial. The end result of which could force a decision against the company that might equate to billions in damages. WalMart has the option of appealing the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court for review.
At the heart of the issue is whether more than a million current and former Wal-Mart employees can join together in their claims of discrimination, which they say has occurred over the past 10 years.
The plaintiffs allege that women were paid less than men, and were given fewer opportunities for promotion than men. The plaintiffs want back pay and punitive damages.
The lawsuit alleges that the company's "strong, centralized structure fosters or facilitates gender stereotyping and discrimination."
The workers bringing suit also say women make up more than 70 percent of Wal-Mart's hourly work force, but in the past decade made up less than one-third of its store management.
The suit was first filed by Betty Dukes, a store greeter in Pittsburg, California, along with five of her co-workers in 2001.