Wal-Mart Stores appeals sex discrimination case

SAN FRANCISCO Wed Aug 25, 2010 6:36pm EDT

A Wal-Mart cart is seen at the parking lot of a Wal-Mart market in Miami, May 18, 2010. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

A Wal-Mart cart is seen at the parking lot of a Wal-Mart market in Miami, May 18, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Barria

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The world's largest retailer has asked the Supreme Court to halt a mammoth sex-discrimination case brought by its women workers, according to a Wednesday court filing.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is appealing an April ruling that authorized the class action, which could include more than 1 million women. Wal-Mart allegedly practiced widespread discrimination in its pay and promotion practices.

A divided 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals had allowed the lawsuit to proceed, saying mere size should not be a reason for dismissing the case. The litigation could involve billions of dollars in damages and has been described as the largest sex-discrimination class action.

"It is important to remember that the 9th Circuit's opinion dealt only with class certification, not with the merits of the lawsuit," the company said in a statement.

"Wal-Mart is an excellent place for women to work and has been recognized as a leader in fostering the advancement and success of women in the workplace," the statement said.

Lawyer Brad Seligman, who is representing the women, said Wal-Mart's appeal was an attempt to deny his clients their day in court.

"The ruling upholding the class in this case is well within the mainstream that courts at all levels have recognized for decades," he said. "Only the size of the case is unusual, and that is a product of Wal-Mart's size and the breadth of the discrimination we documented."

The litigation has ground through the federal courts in California for nine years, including six at the 9th Circuit. In its Wednesday filing, Wal-Mart argued that the appellate court's ruling created uncertainty in the law detrimental to businesses beyond the retailer.

The case is: Dukes v Walmart in 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, 04-16688

Wal-Mart shares closed at $51.55, up 0.49 percent, on the New York Stock Exchange.

(Reporting by Dan Levine, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)

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