people: 2 million, evil empire: 0historic lawsuit against wal-mart to proceed

I used to blog regularly about Wal-Mart (now conveniently filed under "labour" for your viewing pleasure). Although I don't mention them much anymore, I am still on the mailing list of the good folks of Wal-Mart Watch. They are a busy bunch, and a recent court ruling gave them something to celebrate.

The historic lawsuit called Dukes v. Wal-Mart - the largest class-action suit in US history, popularly known as "Betty v. Goliath" - will be proceeding against Wal-Mart, despite the company's best efforts to stop it. From WMW:
Wal-Mart may have the best legal team money can buy -- but even the fanciest of corporate lawyers can't stop the largest class-action lawsuit in U.S. history.

Thanks to the determination of current and former Wal-Mart employees, their dedicated counsel and the judicial wisdom of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the world's largest employer will face allegations that it actively discriminated against its female employees. This case could cost them close to $20 billion.

This is a historic day for all of us who believe that women deserve equal pay, equal promotions and equal treatment at work.

From Bloomberg News:
Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the biggest U.S. private employer, lost a bid to prevent 2 million current and former female workers from proceeding as a group with sex bias claims in the largest employment lawsuit in U.S. history.

A federal appeals court in San Francisco today upheld a 2004 lower court ruling granting class-action status to a lawsuit accusing Wal-Mart of paying women less than men and giving them fewer promotions. That ruling expanded the suit, originally filed by six women, to include all women who worked at Wal-Mart stores from December 1998 to the present, excluding upper management and pharmacy workers.

"Expert opinions, factual evidence, statistical evidence and anecdotal evidence present significant proof of a corporate policy of discrimination," the appeals court said.

The court's 2-1 decision is a blow to Bentonville, Arkansas- based Wal-Mart, which is facing more than 200 federal lawsuits by employees. While the workers still have to prove their claims at a trial, the ruling provides leverage for a settlement. The workers are seeking billions of dollars in back pay and punitive damages, court-ordered changes in Wal-Mart's practices and independent monitoring of company practices.

Any action against Wal-Mart has ramifications for all US employers, which is why it's so important to fight them on every front. WMW is leading and helping to coordinate battles on discrimination, labour relations, the environment, Wal-Mart's undue influence on the political process, its effect on communities, its relationships with its suppliers, and of course, the all-important issue of health care.

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