Wal-Mart: Gender Bias Suit Too Big

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Wal-Mart, the world's largest retailer, is set to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, Tuesday, over allegations the company discriminated against its female employees.

At issue is whether the justices will allow the class action suit to go forward. The ruling could open the door for hundreds of thousands of women who work at Wal-Mart to seek back pay and billions of dollars in damages.

"I'm here rocking the whole company and I'm doing it for myself. I'm doing it for every woman who is afraid of doing it for herself," plaintiff Christine Kwaposki said.

Kwaposki has worked at Wal-Mart for 25 years. She is a single mother of two and one of six plaintiffs suing the company for sex discrimination. The case is the biggest of its kind in history. 
    
Kwaposki and her fellow plaintiffs say they were passed over for promotions and paid less than their male counterparts.

"There was a male co-worker who had been there half the time I was there and he was asking almost double what I was making," Kwaposki said. "I even went to the district manager and asked them what I needed to do. That's when I got the 'blow the cobwebs off my make-up and doll up' comment."

Lawyers for the plaintiffs have presented evidence alleging that women make up more than 70 percent of Wal-Mart's hourly workforce -- but just a third of store manager positions.

"Women desperately need these jobs to support themselves and their families. And even if they're underpaid and even if they're passed over for promotions that they deserve, they can't leave," said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women's Law Center.
    
Wal-Mart, however, denies it discriminates against women. The company says cases like this are isolated instances -- and so a massive class action makes no legal sense.

"Plaintiff's in this case want to lump over 1.5 million women who work for Wal-Mart into the case, whether they want to be or not," said Gisel Ruiz, Wal-Mart's executive vice president of human resources.

The Supreme Court must only decide whether the huge lawsuit can proceed as a class action.
    
The women suing Wal-Mart say that if the company forces them to sue individually, it will have no reason to change its practices.

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Heather Sells

Heather Sells

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Heather Sells enjoys reporting on a variety of issues for CBN News. Some of her recent stories have focused on religious liberties, technology, AIDS, overseas missions, domestic trafficking, and politics.  Follow Heather on Twitter @SellsHeather and "like" her at Facebook.com/HeatherSellsCBNNews.