Earlier this month, in federal court in San Francisco, Wal-Mart was about to end 15 years of litigation over claims that it discriminated against female workers. However, just as the case was about to come to completion, six women filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit.
The six women are former female employees who claim that letting Wal-Mart settle would ruin their chance to follow the ruling. The case began 15 years ago when a group of five women filed a lawsuit in 2001, alleging that female employees at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club were discriminated against based on their gender. They alleged that female employees were not paid as much as male employees and were not promoted to management positions as often as male employees.
The lawsuit was formally certified as a class action lawsuit in 2004, consisting of 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees, making it the largest civil rights case in U.S. history. However, in 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court decertified the class action lawsuit, finding that the women had not established that their claims could be productively litigated at once. The plaintiffs scaled back their lawsuit to about 150,000 women who worked in Wal-Mart’s California regions. A federal court again failed to certify the lawsuit as a class action, finding that of the quantity of women was still to large, and that the evidence of bias among the women was too weak to show a general policy of discrimination. The ruling meant that every woman who felt she was discriminated against because of her gender at Wal-Mart would have to pursue her case individually.
Finally, the five women who initially filed suit reached confidential settlements with Wal-Mart. It appeared that the protracted litigation was about to come to a close, but before the case was dismissed, six women filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit. These women claim that they were denied equal pay and equal opportunities for promotion while working at Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs in California.
The women who are seeking to intervene in the lawsuit are asking to certify three classes of female employees of Wal-Marts and Sam’s Clubs in three corporate regions in California and the neighboring states. They claim that 65 to 87 percent of those stores pay women less when compared to men who are similarly situated. They are seeking class certification, damages, and a court order directing Wal-Mart to change its corporate policies. A hearing on the motion to intervene is scheduled for August 19 in San Francisco.
As you can see, employment discrimination cases can be time consuming and extremely complex. In some cases, an employer may reach a quick settlement, but in other situations the case can drag on for years. However, do not let fear of a lawsuit intimidate you. If you have been illegally discriminated against on the basis of your race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability, national origin, or other characteristics, you have legal rights. Under federal and California law, discrimination on the basis of those characteristics is illegal, and victims of discrimination can seek compensation from their current or former employers.
If you believe you have been illegally discriminated against in the workplace in San Francisco, call the Oakland-San Francisco employment discrimination attorneys at Liberty Law at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. We can help. At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty and Seth I. Rosenberg believe that employees who are discriminated against should stand up for their legal rights. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation on your case.