SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Women who had comprised a massive class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc must begin filing individual claims against the company in the coming months, a U.S. judge ruled.
Women alleging that the company denied them pay raises and promotions because of gender bias are regrouping after the U.S. Supreme Court dismantled a class of up to 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart workers in June.
Attorneys for the women are expected to try to fashion smaller class actions as the litigation moves forward.
In an order issued on Friday, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco gave women who were part of the large class, and who had received permission to sue from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, until October 28 to file lawsuits.
Plaintiffs must first take up claims with the EEOC before being able to file a lawsuit in federal court.
“We believe the October deadline will affect a very small number of women,” said plaintiff attorney Jocelyn Larkin.
Other potential plaintiffs who never filed a charge with the EEOC against Wal-Mart have until next year to do that.
“The court agreed with us that there needed to be a consistent, common date that applies to all claims of former class members,” Larkin said.
“This is a fair approach that is very similar to what we proposed,” said Wal-Mart attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr.
Other motions have been filed regarding how the case will proceed, but no court dates have been set.
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 Gerald E. McCormick, Bernard Orr