Wal-Mart appealing class action ruling

March 24, 2009 10:24:50 AM PDT
An 11-judge federal appeals court panel will hear arguments in San Francisco this afternoon on whether to allow a class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. on behalf of more than 1.5 million women nationwide.

SIGN-UP: Get breaking news sent to you

If the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allows a class, or group, lawsuit, the case would be the largest civil rights class action in U.S. history.

The case would be handled in a federal trial court in San Francisco, where six women filed the original lawsuit in 2001.

The lawsuit claims the discount department store chain discriminates against female employees in pay and promotion.

Wal-Mart, based in Bentonville, Ark., is the world's largest private employer. The proposed class is estimated at between 1.5 million and 2 million women who worked at Wal-Mart stores since 1998.

The company is appealing a ruling in which a three-judge penal of the appeals court ruled by a 2-1 vote in 2007 to allow a class action.

Wal-Mart has claimed in court papers that it doesn't discriminate and that a class action would be inappropriate because job decisions are made by individual managers.

Company attorneys wrote in a brief submitted to the court that treating the case as a class action would be "unprecedented, unworkable, unconstitutional and unlawful."

Last week, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a brief weighing in on the side of the plaintiffs in support of a class action.

Lawyers for the federal agency wrote that class actions have "proved to be an important tool for ensuring that individuals injured by systemic discrimination may obtain redress."

The panel is expected to take the case under submission at the end of a one-hour hearing and issue a written ruling at a later day. Its decision could be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

       Today's latest headlines | ABC7 News on your phone
Follow us on Twitter | Fan us on Facebook | Get our free widget