April 16, 2013

Dukes v. Wal-Mart Plaintiffs Cite Strong New Evidence in Gender Discrimination Lawsuit

Plaintiffs in the Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., gender discrimination case filed a motion for class certification in federal court on Monday.  Attorneys for the plaintiffs seek to certify three classes covering California Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club regions and encompassing some 150,000 former and current employees.

“The women who first brought this case have waited over 12 years to have their claims heard. Without a class action, their rights cannot be vindicated,” said plaintiffs' counsel. “It is time that the merits of their claims against Wal-Mart are heard in court.”

The case, filed on behalf of Wal-Mart employee Betty Dukes and others, began in the same U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, in June 2001 when the plaintiffs brought suit against Wal-Mart and its subsidiary Sam’s Club alleging pay and promotion discrimination. The District Court certified the national class in 2004, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court decision on class certification in 2010.  Wal-Mart appealed the Ninth Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which reversed the decision in June 2011. 

The current case for class certification is “markedly different” from the case that went to the Supreme Court in size and scope, according to plaintiffs’ counsel Christine Webber, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC. “We are asking the District Court to grant certification of these narrower classes based on our conviction that they are in full compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s new guidelines for class actions in employment discrimination cases.”

The classes include only women who were subject to pay and promotion discrimination at 250 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in two California Wal-Mart regions and one California Sam’s Club region from 1998 through 2002. The case excludes women who worked as store managers or pharmacists during that time period as well as any claims for promotion into co-manager or store manager positions.

“When low-wage women workers come together as a class, they have a better chance at getting equal pay and advancing at their jobs.  That is why the brave women of Wal-Mart have filed this case,” said plaintiffs’ counsel Noran Ferrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates (ERA).

In addition to past evidence of pay and promotion discrimination, attorneys for the plaintiffs also submitted substantial new evidence, including the declarations of more than 80 women charging pay and promotion discrimination, new testimony and documents specific to the California regions concerning pay and promotion practices, and a new analysis showing statistically significant patterns that women fared far worse in pay and promotions than their male counterparts in the California regions.

Named California plaintiffs include current Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., workers Betty Dukes, a 19-year employee who works at a cashier/greeter in a Contra Costa County Wal-Mart, and Christine Kwapnoski, a 27-year employee who works as an assistant manager in a Contra Costa County Sam’s Club. Also named are former employees Edith Arana, of Los Angeles County; Deborah Gunter, of Riverside County; and Patricia Surgeson, of Sacramento County — all of whom worked at Wal-Mart stores in California.

A hearing on the motion for class certification before the District Court in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., is expected in July 2013.

Class Certification Motion and Memorandum in Support - April 15, 2013 [PDF]