May 14, 2019

The Betty Dukes case still haunts Walmart’s legal department, which is having to deal with the latest round of gender discrimination lawsuits filed by hundreds of women across a dozen states, according to the civil rights lawyer who's been behind the litigation since the beginning.

The ghost of Betty Dukes still haunts the aisles of Walmart Inc.—and the halls of Walmart’s legal department, which is having to deal with the latest round of gender discrimination lawsuits.

Dukes, the former Walmart worker who died last July, led 1.5 million women into a class action lawsuit on gender discrimination in 2001, only to see the U.S. Supreme Court toss it on a technical ruling over procedure, not on the merits, in 2011.

Now in the footsteps of Dukes several hundred women across a dozen states or more are filing individual discrimination suits against Walmart, according to Christine Webber, a civil rights lawyer and partner with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll in Washington, D.C.

The law firm was co-lead counsel on the Dukes class action and is now helping to coordinate the state suits with local law firms.

Webber, who worked nine years on the Dukes case, told Corporate Counsel Tuesday the new suits represent the first of 1,800 women, most of whom were part of the original Dukes action. They are claiming discrimination in pay and promotions at the world’s largest retailer.

“We have unfinished business that we are determined to see through to the end,” she said. “We have really tremendous clients who have been sticking with their claims for many years.”

. . . 

Webber said complaints alleging gender discrimination already have been filed through local law firms in six states: Florida, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, with more expected this week in Ohio and California. They total 19 cases involving 150 female plaintiffs so far.

Some are suing alone, she said, while others are in small groups who shared work situations, such as the same regions or managers. “The jury will still be asked about each individual and not the group,” Webber explained.

Preparations are underway for suits in five more states: Alabama, Iowa, Illinois, Mississippi and Texas in the coming months, she added. There will probably be more beyond that, she said.

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