By Mark Memmott

"A divided federal appeals court in San Francisco says Wal-Mart Stores Inc. must face a massive class-action lawsuit that claims the world's largest private employer discriminates against women workers," the Associated Press writes. The judgment came on a 6-5 vote by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. Its ruling is posted here (warning, it's a pretty large pdf file that may take a while to download).

Bloomberg News calls this "the biggest gender-bias case in U.S. history."

According to Bloomberg, the court ruling:

"Means that women who have worked at Wal-Mart since 2001 can be part of a single class-action lawsuit alleging that female workers faced discrimination, said Brad Seligman, an attorney for the workers, in a phone interview. He said the number of potential plaintiffs exceeds 1 million, the largest ever gender bias case."

Reuters reminds us that "the suit originated with a Wal-Mart worker named Betty Dukes who sued for sexual discrimination in 2001 with six other plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit that extended the case to all women who had worked at the company since 1998. ... The suit argues that female workers were paid less and received fewer promotions at Wal-Mart than male counterparts, and that the retailer's corporate structure fostered this gender discrimination."

Wal-Mart has said it believes "the experiences alleged by the six individuals who brought this suit are not representative of the experiences of our female associates. Wal-Mart is a good place for women to work and fosters female leadership among our associates and in the larger business world."

categories: Business, Legal, National News

2:25 - April 26, 2010