July 07, 2015

Ruling May Affect Female Wal-Mart Employees in Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi

(CINCINNATI, Ohio) Today the Sixth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals over-turned a Tennessee federal district court ruling, thereby allowing plaintiffs in a gender discrimination regional class action to initiate their suit against Wal-Mart. The ruling does not certify the class, but allows the court action to begin.

“We applaud the court for allowing these hard-working women to join together to pursue their claims of pay and promotion discrimination against Wal-Mart,” said Joseph M. Sellers of Cohen Milstein. Cohen Milstein is co-counsel in the case.  “Wal-Mart’s persistent pattern of gender discrimination can be devastating for women and their families,” David Garrison of Barrett Johnston, the firm that filed the original suit in Tennessee.

The complaint – Phipps, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. – seeks to end Wal-Mart’s discriminatory practices for female employees and to receive punitive damages for the women in the class.  Plaintiffs charge that Wal-Mart discriminated against female employees in stores throughout its Region 43, which centers in Tennessee and also includes parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, and Mississippi.  Cohen Milstein is co-counsel filed the original class action against the giant retailer.

The named plaintiffs in the Region 43 case are Cheryl Phipps, of Covington, Tenn., employed by Wal-Mart for 11 years; Bobbi Millner, of Jackson, Tenn., employed by Wal-Mart for 26 years; and Shawn Gibbons, a Wal-Mart employee since 1993. The named plaintiffs seek to represent thousands of current and former women employees—with the exception of store managers and pharmacists—of Wal-Mart stores in Region 43.  The class includes women who worked at Wal-Mart stores and were subject to pay and promotion discrimination at any time since Dec. 26, 1998.

Phipps v. Wal-Mart is the third regional discrimination case lodged against Wal-Mart since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2011 reversed a lower court ruling on the national class action against the retailer and issued new guidelines for class actions and Title VII Civil Rights Act employment discrimination cases.  In October 2011, two regional complaints were filed – Dukes, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, and Odle, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas.