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June 23, 2004
Bias Lawsuit Against Wal-Mart Granted Class-Action Status

A federal judge has certified as a class action a lawsuit accusing Wal-Mart of a pattern of discrimination against women in its pay and promotion practices, the New York Times reports.

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The class in Dukes et al. v. Wal-Mart, Inc. could include as many as 1.6 million women who have worked at the company since 1998, which would create a lawsuit that would dwarf previous employment-discrimination lawsuits, according to the newspaper.

Wal-Mart says it intends to appeal the ruling by Judge Martin Jenkins of the United States District Court in Northern California.

"Let's keep in mind that today's ruling has absolutely nothing to do with the merits of the case," says Mona Williams, vice president for communications at the retail giant. "Judge Jenkins is simply saying he thinks it meets the legal requirements necessary to move forward as a class action. We strongly disagree with his decision and will seek an appeal."

The plaintiffs in the case allege that the company paid women less than men and prevented women from getting promotions.

The plaintiffs hired Richard Drogin, an emeritus statistics professor at California State University at Hayward, to study the company's pay practices. Drogin's study found that women working in hourly positions at least 45 weeks per year were paid 6.2 percent less per year than men in similar jobs, the newspaper reports.

The lawsuit contends that while women make up 65 percent of the workforce, just 33 percent of management positions are held by women.

The company denies the allegations and has said its own studies have had different results.


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