Wal-Mart Gender Discrimination

A federal appeals court ruled today, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2007, that a gender bias suit against Wal-Mart can proceed.

The suit is a class action suit. That means a million and a half to two million women would be plaintiffs. They could argue as a group or ‘class,’ that Wal-Mart discriminated against them in providing promotions and in paying them less than male employees.

It is believed to be the largest sex discrimination case suit in U.S. history and it’s against the world’s largest retailer. These plaintiffs say at Wal-Mart, customers may get a good deal but female employees get the shaft: lower pay and fewer promotions.

“I was over men, training them on their jobs,” plaintiff, Christine Kwapnoski said.

The women claim that Wal-Mart pays women 5 to 15 percent less than men in comparable jobs and that while two-thirds of the Wal-Mart workforce is women, they only get a third of all promotions to management.

Lead plaintiff, Betty Dukes said she saw men promoted even before their probationary periods were over.

“Our words are true. We are not falsely accusing Wal-Mart. We are stating the facts as they occurred,” Dukes said.

Dukes is just one of one and a half million female employees who worked for Wal-Mart’s U.S. stores since 1998 that can be part of this suit and billions of dollars are at stake.

Wal-Mart is not taking the charges lying down. The company said it will appeal. In 2005, the CEO said the company would correct any valid complaints.

“The exceptions that occur, we’re going to deal with very strongly. It’s our obligation, not only to our associates but it’s our obligation to society,” CEO, Lee Scott said.

As for those statistics about women in Wal-Mart management: the company said not everybody wants to be a Wal-Mart manager and that women who want to be managers may find better opportunities elsewhere.