By CYRIL TUOHY, managing editor of Risk & Insurance®
Dukes v. Wal-Mart dates back to 2001, when 54-year-old California worker Betty Dukes filed suit against the retailer.
In June 2001, the lawsuit began in U.S. District Court in San Francisco with the plaintiffs seeking redress on behalf of themselves and all other "similarly situated women" subjected to the company's "continuing policies and practices of gender discrimination."
The plaintiffs alleged that they were paid less than men for comparable work in comparable positions, that they received fewer promotions and that they waited longer for promotions despite better performance than their male counterparts at the largest private employer in the United States.
The practices, according to the plaintiffs, are in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Dukes was hired in 1994 as a part-time cashier at the Pittsburg, Calif., store, received an excellent 90-day review, and was promoted to customer service manager in June 1997.
In September 1997, Dukes claims, she was the subject of discrimination from her superiors. After complaining, her superiors began to retaliate against her, Dukes alleges.
Wal-Mart rejects the allegations, saying Dukes was written up for not following company procedures. In August 1999, Dukes was demoted because of poor performance, the company alleges.
In June 2004, the district court ruled that the plaintiffs could move forward with the case as the case met the requirements of a class regarding issues related to pay and promotion alleged in the original suit.
In 2007, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's decision by a 2-1 majority. In 2009, the case was reheard by all the judges involved--an en banc panel--which is reserved for cases of exceptional public importance.
The 6-5 en banc decision issued last year, substantially affirming the class certification decided previously in 2007 and in 2004, virtually guaranteed that Dukes v. Wal-Mart would be reviewed by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In December the U.S. Supreme Court announced it would review the case and a decision is expected later this year.
March 1, 2011
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