Judge Casts Doubt on Wal-Mart Gender Lawsuit

By Dan Levine | June 11, 2012

A U.S. judge on Friday said he was “seriously concerned” about whether women suing Wal-Mart Stores Inc had enough evidence to move forward with their refiled gender discrimination lawsuit.

Plaintiffs alleging the world’s largest retailer denied them pay raises and promotions because of their gender are trying to regroup after the U.S. Supreme Court last year dismantled a class of up to 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart workers.

The Wal-Mart workers filed a reformulated lawsuit in a San Francisco federal court in October, saying they were confining their allegations to California.

Speaking at a hearing on Friday, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said the plaintiffs could only move forward with a refiled lawsuit if they could show new evidence to overcome the Supreme Court’s criticisms. And Breyer said he had “difficulty” seeing where the plaintiffs had come up with that evidence.

Brad Seligman, an attorney for the women, argued that they had uncovered enough new facts, including specific comments by Wal-Mart managers.

“This is direct evidence of discrimination,” Seligman said.

The refiled lawsuit, which could include roughly 45,000 women, is part of a strategy to bring more narrowly tailored class actions.

Wal-Mart attorney Theodore Boutrous argued that the plaintiffs hadn’t come up with anything new.

“These are the exact arguments the plaintiff has been making for 11 years,” Boutrous said.

The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California is Betty Dukes, Patricia Surgeson, Edith Arana, Deborah Gunter and Christine Kwapnoski, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, 01-2252.

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