March 2, 2010 / 4:19 PM / 9 years ago

Wal-Mart to pay $11.7 million in EEOC gender bias suit

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc will pay more than $11.7 million to settle a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency said.

The lawsuit accused the world’s largest retailer of regularly hiring male workers for warehouse jobs at its London, Kentucky, distribution center from January 1, 1998, through February 15, 2005, and denying jobs to equally or better qualified female applicants.

According to the EEOC, employment officials hired mainly 18- to 25-year-old men because they believed order-filling positions were not suitable for women. The lawsuit began in August 2001.

Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter said the company was pleased to settle, and the claims “do not reflect Wal-Mart’s continuing commitment to build an even more inclusive workplace through hiring and training initiatives.”

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based company did not admit wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

Wal-Mart is awaiting a ruling by the federal appeals court in San Francisco in a separate lawsuit, over whether to let roughly 2 million current and former female Wal-Mart workers sue the retailer as a group for gender bias.

That lawsuit is the largest alleging sexual discrimination in U.S. history.

In the Kentucky case, Wal-Mart and the EEOC entered a five-year consent decree that was signed by U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell on Monday.

The decree calls for Wal-Mart to hire women for the next 50 order-filler positions, and offer women half of the following 50 positions and a third of positions thereafter. It also calls for increased training and other remedies.

“The terms of this decree are adequate, fair, reasonable, equitable and just,” Caldwell wrote. The monetary terms include $8.41 million of back pay, $3.29 million of compensatory damages, and various fees and employer taxes, the decree said.

The case is EEOC v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Kentucky, No. 01-00339.

Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, editing by Gerald E. McCormick and John Wallace

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