By Casey Sullivan and Dan Levine
Aug 2 In another setback for women suing
Wal-Mart, a U.S. judge in San Francisco on Friday rejected an
attempt to bring reformulated sex discrimination claims against
the company as a class action.
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer denied a motion for class
certification brought by plaintiffs seeking to represent 150,000
women in Wal-Mart's California offices who alleged the world's
largest retailer denied them pay raises and promotions because
of their gender.
The claims were filed as a reformulated lawsuit after the
U.S. Supreme Court threw out a larger class-action sex
discrimination against Wal-Mart Stores Inc in 2011 that
claimed female employees at 3,400 Walmart stores nationwide were
underpaid and given fewer promotions.
The California lawsuit was part of a broader strategy by
women Wal-Mart workers to bring more narrowly tailored class
actions in an attempt to seek damages, targeting Wal-Mart's
employment practices in regions throughout the country.
Instead of relying on nationwide statistical patterns and
anecdotal evidence provided by plaintiffs, the California
lawsuit had alleged specific discriminatory statements made by
the district and regional managers that have decision-making
authority over pay and promotions.
Breyer said in his ruling that the women could not bring
their allegations as a class action because they had not
established that their claims of the company's employment
practice were linked to a class-wide policy.
But he said: "This order does not consider whether
plaintiffs themselves were victims of discrimination as alleged
in their complaint; those individual claims shall proceed in
Still, Breyer took issue with some of the merits of the
plaintiffs case. For one, he said that the women did not
identify statistically significant disparities in pay and
promotion decisions throughout the California regions at issue.
Breyer also noted that the women said they had anecdotes
reflecting stereotyped views expressed by a number of regional
managers, but only offered evidence of bias exhibited by about
five percent of the top level management that they say guided
"Though plaintiffs succeeded in illustrating attitudes of
gender bias held by managers at Wal-Mart, they failed to marshal
significant proof that intentional discrimination was a general
policy affecting the entire class," Breyer said.
A Wal-Mart spokesman said in a statement that the company
has had a strong policy against discrimination in place for many
years, and that the allegations from the plaintiffs were not
representative of the positive experiences of other women
working at Wal-Mart.
"Judge Breyer gave the plaintiffs every opportunity to offer
any evidence they wanted, and their evidence comes up short,"
said Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer representing Wal-Mart. "We are
Randy Renick, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a
statement that plaintiffs were "deeply disappointed" with the
court's decision and intended to appeal the ruling.
"While this court decision does not in any way negate the
merits of the pay and promotion discrimination case against
Wal-Mart, it does create yet another hurdle for these women to
at long last have their day in court," he said.