Fighting for Women's Equality

Federal Court Gives Green Light to Dukes v. Wal-Mart Gender Discrimination Case

September 22, 2012 | by

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 22, 2012 Contact: 402-305-0799 Equal Rights Advocates Executive Director Noreen Farrell available for comment; 510-701-8243 (SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – Sept. 22, 2012) A federal court has given the plaintiffs in the California-focused Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., lawsuit the green light to proceed with their gender discrimination class action against the giant retailer. In rejecting Wal-Mart’s motion to dismiss the case, Judge Charles R. Breyer, of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, yesterday upheld the plaintiffs’ right to proceed as a class and present evidence that Wal-Mart and its subsidiary Sam’s Club discriminated against its California region female workers in pay and promotion. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argue that the amended class action, filed in U.S. District Court in October 2011, is in full compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s new guidelines for class actions in employment and discrimination cases. Those guidelines arose from the Supreme Court’s decision in the Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision. “We have maintained all along that the Supreme Court’s decision did not preclude us from seeking justice for the women of Wal-Mart through class actions consistent with its new guidelines and standards, nor did the Court rule on the merits of the case,” said lead counsel Brad Seligman, of the Impact Fund. “This decision vindicates our argument.” Plaintiffs’ counsel Noreen Farrell, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates, adds: “The women of Wal-Mart have been waiting for more than a decade for their day in court. Sex discrimination in pay and promotion hurts lives and families. We applaud the decision giving our clients the green light to prove their claims.” The case began in the same U.S. District Court in June 2001 when the plaintiffs brought suit against Wal-Mart on behalf of a nationwide class of female workers alleging pay and promotion discrimination. The District Court certified the national class in 2004, and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the lower court decision in 2010. Wal-Mart appealed The Ninth Circuit’s ruling to the Supreme Court, which reversed the decision in June 2011. Plaintiffs’ co-lead counsel Joseph Sellers, of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC, states: “We have strong new evidence that Wal-Mart has a long and egregious history of pay and promotion discrimination throughout its California stores. We welcome the opportunity to present this evidence to the Court.” Relying on well-documented discrimination in pay and management promotion practices, the named plaintiffs represent more than 100,000 current or former women employees—with the exception of store managers and pharmacists— of California Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores. The class includes women who worked at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores and were subject to pay and promotion discrimination at any time since Dec. 26, 1998. Named California plaintiffs are current Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., employees Betty Dukes, an 18-year employee who works at a cashier/greeter in a Contra Costa County Wal-Mart, and Christine Kwapnoski, a 26-year employee who works as an assistant manager in a Contra Costa County Sam’s Club, a division of Wal-Mart. Also named are former employees Edith Arana, of Los Angeles County; Deborah Gunter, of Riverside County; and Patricia Surgeson, of Sacramento County — all of whom worked at Wal-Mart stores in California. Judge Breyer set a hearing for Feb. 15, 2013, on the plaintiffs’ motion for class certification. In addition to the case before the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, another case class action pay and discrimination case against Wal-Mart, Odle v. Wal-Mart has been filed in a federal court in Texas, and other regional cases are expected to be filed elsewhere in the nation this year. For more information on the case, visit

Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., plaintiffs are represented by the Impact Fund, Berkeley, Calif.; Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, PLLC, Washington, D.C.; Equal Rights Advocates (ERA), San Francisco, Calif.; Davis Cowell & Bowe, LLP, San Francisco, Calif.; and the Law Office of Sheila Thomas.

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