Retail giant Wal-Mart has asked the Supreme Court to overturn a ruling allowing 1.5 million women employees to join together in what would be the biggest class-action employment lawsuit in history.
The lawsuit filed in 2001 by six women states that Wal-Mart engaged in gender discrimination by paying male employees more than their female equivalent. The suit also alleges women were passed over in the race for promotions in the company.
The courts are allowing plaintiffs who were harmed in similar ways to join together in a common class of litigants to pursue the lawsuit. As gender discrimination lawsuit are only normally litigated one person at a time.
Wal-Mart lawyers are currently battling a court ruling in California upholding the creation of the large class of plaintiffs, that worked in the 3,400 domestic stores of Wal-Mart since 1998.
The most recent ruling in April of the Full Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted 6 to 5 to uphold the status of the Lawsuit.
The chief judge added that the class member “held a multitude of jobs, at different levels of Wal-Mart’s hierarchy, for variable lengths of time, in 3,400 stores, sprinkled across 50 states, with a kaleidoscope of supervisors (male and female), subject to a variety of regional policies that all differed depending on each class member’s job, location and period of employment.”
Lawyers for the retail giant say the lower court decision in the case are rewriting employment law to allow class action law suit for money damages under any rule.
They also argue that Wal-Mart ability to defend its self will be undercut in the charges that intentionally discriminated against the 1.5 million women.
The lawsuit is bigger than all active personnel in the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard but is not likely to get a ruling until next year.