Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, was sued by five Wisconsin women who allege the company denied them and other female employees equal pay and equal opportunities.
“Women at Wal-Mart were told by management that women deserved less pay and fewer promotions than men because men had families to support,” plaintiffs’ lawyer Jim Kaster of Minneapolis-based Nichols Kaster PLLP, said in a press statement announcing the filing.
Their complaint, on behalf of workers at stores in parts of Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan, was filed at the U.S. courthouse in Madison, Wisconsin on Feb. 20. That same day a federal judge in Nashville, Tennessee, dismissed a similar case as untimely.
Those cases and two more like them were filed after a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court decision rejecting a national gender-discrimination class action, or group lawsuit. The high court’s majority in that case found “no convincing proof” of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy.
Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, said he couldn’t immediately comment on the new filing.
Sandra Ladik, the lead plaintiff in the Wisconsin case, worked at the company’s Portage store from 1992 to 2006, according to the complaint.
She claims that while serving as a maintenance department manager, she learned that a male co-worker, whom she had trained to become a maintenance supervisor, was being paid more than she was. Ladik had more experience and responsibility than her colleague, she alleged.
She and the other women who joined in her case are seeking to proceed on behalf of all women now working in the stores in Wal-Mart’s region 14, or who have worked there since Dec. 26, 1998. They are seeking compensatory awards of back-pay, front-pay, and punitive damages, plus other relief.
A federal judge in Dallas threw out another of the regional cases in October. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor also concluded the plaintiffs’ claims were untimely. Dukes v. Wal- Mart, the case in which the Supreme Court issued its decision, is still pending in San Francisco federal court. A fifth federal case was filed last year in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
“Wal-Mart has been successful in making technical legal arguments preventing courts from reaching the merits of women’s claims, and we expect more of these arguments here,” Kaster said. “Nevertheless, we hope that the court in Wisconsin will, after this long period of waiting, finally allow their claims to be heard by a jury.”
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