WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on Tuesday in the largest sex-discrimination class-action lawsuit ever as Wal-Mart Stores Inc’s female employees seek billions of dollars from the giant retailer.
Here is a chronology of key events in the case:
June 19, 2001: Betty Dukes, a Wal-Mart greeter at a store in Pittsburg, California, and five current or former female employees filed a lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco, accusing the retailer of discriminating against its female employees by paying them less than men and giving them fewer promotions.
April 28, 2003: Attorneys for the women filed a motion for class certification and asked the judge to rule the case can go to trial on behalf of all women who worked for Wal-Mart in the United States at any time since December 26, 1998, a group believed to exceed 1.5 million current and former female employees.
June 21, 2004: U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins ruled the lawsuit can proceed as a nationwide class covering the women who worked at 3,400 stores, but did not decide the merits of the lawsuit.
He proposed a two-stage trial. First, the court would decide if Wal-Mart was liable for intentional sex discrimination. Depending on the verdict, the second stage would decide remedies, such as back pay, punitive damages and injunctive relief requiring pay and promotion changes.
April 26, 2010: A U.S. appeals court based in San Francisco, by a 6-5 vote, upheld the judge’s conclusion that it would be better to handle the case as a single group rather than requiring individual lawsuits to be litigated.
August 25, 2010: Wal-Mart appealed to the Supreme Court. It argued claims involving current and former workers, hourly employees and salaried managers and stores across the country were too different to proceed as one class-action lawsuit.
December 6, 2010: The Supreme Court said it would decide whether the class-action certification violated federal rules for such lawsuits, one of the most important employment discrimination class-action cases in decades.
Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by John Whitesides