story by Andrew Harris
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. asked a federal judge to deny a bid by 11 women to pursue gender-discrimination claims on behalf of female employees who worked for the retailer in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and four other southeastern U.S. states.
Citing a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that shattered a planned national group lawsuit known as Dukes v. Wal-Mart, the company on Oct. 26 asked Fort Lauderdale, Fla., U.S. District Judge Robert N. Scola Jr. to reject the women’s bid to create a smaller, regional suit and asked him to limit participation in the case to those who brought it.
Filed on Oct. 4, the Fort Lauderdale lawsuit is one of four regional cases being pressed by women who worked for the world’s biggest retailer and allegedly suffered pay and promotion discrimination.
“The Supreme Court held that the Dukes plaintiffs could not proceed on behalf of a nationwide class, not because of its size, but because plaintiffs had failed to ‘establish the existence of any common question,’” the Bentonville-based company told Scola in its filing.
Wal-Mart employs more than 94,000 people in Florida alone, the company said, citing the plaintiffs’ complaint.
While Wal-Mart contends the class action rejected by the Supreme Court cannot be revived, plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph Sellers said in a phone interview today that other high court precedent supports his position.
Members of a failed class don’t lose the right to sue as a group simply because the time to do so lapsed while legal challenges were pending, he said.
“Our clients ultimately want a chance to try their claims,” Sellers said. “If they win, they win. If they lose, they lose.”
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Dallas on Oct. 15 dismissed a bid by women from Texas and neighboring states to sue the company as a group, ruling the class claims were filed too late.
The original Dukes case is still pending in San Francisco, where a federal judge last month said a group could be certified if it meets criteria outlined by the Supreme Court. Another case has been filed in Tennessee.