Women suing Wal-Mart head back to court
* Wal-Mart women plaintiffs in a Calif. federal court
* First hearing since landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling
SAN FRANCISCO, July 22 (Reuters) - Attorneys for Wal-Mart and women suing the retail giant for discrimination returned to court on Friday for the first time since a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The two sides discussed how long to give women to sue the company if they hadn't already filed a lawsuit.
Women who say Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) denied them pay raises and promotions because of gender bias are regrouping after the Supreme Court dismantled a class of up to 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart workers last month.
Had the class-action lawsuit gone forward, Wal-Mart could have been liable for billions of dollars in back pay and other damages. The high court concluded that the group did not have enough in common to band together to sue the company.
Plaintiff lawyers want to bring multiple, narrower class-action claims against the retailer, while Wal-Mart wants each case to be litigated individually.
At a brief hearing on Friday in a San Francisco federal court, plaintiff attorney Joseph Sellers argued for a January deadline for women who filed complaints against Wal-Mart with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but who had not yet sued.
Wal-Mart attorney Theodore Boutrous argued for an October deadline.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer did not rule from the bench, but indicated he was leaning toward Wal-Mart's timeline.
Boutrous said the company is prepared to look at the cases that come in and deal with them "in a fair way."
The case is Betty Dukes et al v Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, 01-cv-02252. (Reporting by Dan Levine. Editing by Robert MacMillan)
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