Walmart faces gender discrimination charges and might be involved in the largest class action employment lawsuit in United States history. As the biggest private employer in the country, the outcome could be phenomenal.
On Tuesday, arguments will be heard whether a gender discrimination lawsuit against Walmart should become a class action lawsuit. Supreme Court justices will decide whether to allow certification of the largest class action lawsuit in US history. A decision is expected in June. The Supreme Court is not deciding the merits of the case.
The largest retailer in the world, known affectionately by its fans as "Wally's World," offers an array of low cost goods under one roof. While they are the largest private employer in the US, many employees indicate the working conditions are unacceptable.
The gender discrimination lawsuit against Walmart started with six women in California. As the case progressed, women stepped forward to reveal they were overlooked for promotions, spoken to by superiors inappropriately and treated as second-class employees.
Christine Krapnoski, 46, one the original plaintiffs pursuing the gender discrimination suit against Walmart, worked for the company since 1986. She brought the lawsuit in 2001 and states, ""I'm a fighter if nothing else, and so are all the other women that are involved."
She continues, "They know we're right and they just don't want to admit it. They never want to admit anything when they're wrong, they just believe that they're semi-untouchable because of their size."
On the other hand, if the class action goes through Walmart could face up to 1.6 million plaintiffs with a possible payout of tens of billions.
CNN reports the retail giant is no stranger to discrimination lawsuits. In separate lawsuits, Walmart was accused of discrimination against disabled workers and African-American truck drivers. They settled 13 lawsuits for a $6 million payout in 2001.
According to USA Today, the gender discrimination lawsuit goes back to 2001. The Impact Fund and other civil rights lawyers filed a class action. Their case is based on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Title VII, which forbids on-the-job discrimination.
The case alleges women were paid less than men in comparable jobs, despite the fact women had more seniority and better performance reviews. Women were also purportedly advised to “doll up” or dress better.
Brad Seligman of the Impact Fund and Joseph Sellers, a longtime civil rights lawyer, are the lead attorneys for the women versus Walmart. In their brief, the attorneys cite Walmart execs called women “Janie Qs” and approved of having business meetings at Hooters restaurants, notorious for its scantily clad waitresses.
The lawyers also use statistical data to support the gender discrimination case, stating, “While women comprise over 80% of hourly supervisors, they hold only one-third of store management jobs and their ranks steadily diminish at each successive step in the management hierarchy."
The case is sure to have an impact on businesses and employees who are watching to see whether a class action will move forward.