Wal-Mart And Sex Discrimination By The Numbers
Dan Ackman, 06.23.04, 9:40 AM ET
NEW YORK - A federal judge in San Francisco yesterday granted class-action status to a sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores, the nation's largest employer. The case, which now covers as many as 1.6 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees, can be decided en masse because it is based on a statistical analysis that shows Wal-Mart paid female workers less and gave them fewer promotions than men.
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U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins found that attorneys for the six named class representatives, in a case that started three years ago, "present largely uncontested, descriptive statistics which show that women working in Wal-Mart stores are paid less than men in every region, that pay disparities exist in most job categories, that the salary gap widens over time even for men and women hired into the same jobs at the same time, that women take longer to enter into management positions, and that the higher one looks in the organization, the lower the percentage of women." Women make up more than 70% of Wal-Mart's (nyse: WMT - news - people ) hourly workforce but less than one-third of its store management, according to the plaintiffs.
Like every class-action ruling, the certification "should not be construed in any manner as a ruling on the merits or the probable outcome of the case," Jenkins wrote. It simply means that all the women have enough in common to be treated as a whole. Wal-Mart had said a class-action of this size and scope would be unmanageable. But the judge--in a ruling Judge Jenkins himself declared was historic--said enough common issues predominate to decide many issues, if not all, in a single forum.
"Certification of this class shows that no employer, not even the world's largest employer, is...