Wal-Mart Hails Court Ruling on Discrimination Suit

February 18, 2009

Wal-Mart Stores Inc praised a U.S. appeals court decision to rehear a ruling that would have allowed a sex discrimination claim against the retail giant to proceed as a class-action lawsuit.

Wal-Mart had been seeking a reversal of an earlier court decision to approve class-action status for plaintiffs who claimed, in the Dukes v. Wal-Mart case, that the world’s largest retailer was biased in pay and promotions.

A U.S. appeals court in San Francisco said last week it would rehear the decision.

Jeff Gearhart, a Wal-Mart executive vice president and general counsel, called the decision a “positive step.”

“It is important to note that the merits of this case have not been considered by the courts, and we believe the experiences alleged by the six individuals who brought this suit are not representative of the experiences of our female associates,” Gearhart said in a statement late last week.

He said the retailer “is a good place for women to work and fosters female leadership among our associates and in the larger business world.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that a reversal of the class-action status could help contain legal liabilities for Wal-Mart as plaintiffs would need to proceed individually.

The legal exposure for Wal-Mart is in the billions of dollars, the Journal said, citing some of the attorneys involved.

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