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Sex Discrimination – One Case or Millions of Cases?

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over federal cases in the State of Washington, recently heard argument on the issue of whether millions of women who were allegedly improperly denied pay and promotions by Wal-mart over the last 10 years nationwide could proceed together in a single class action. If the case is allowed to proceed as a class action, it would be the biggest civil rights suit in our nation’s history.

Wal-mart argued it would be unfair to allow over 2 million women to proceed against the company in one lawsuit without making each woman prove all the facts of her own case. The women argued Wal-mart’s sex discrimination was system wide and applied in all of its 3,400 stores and that, since each female worker is entitled to only a few thousand dollars, lawyers would be hesitant to represent them on an individual basis.

I feel the Court should allow the case to go forward en masse as a class action. Not only would requiring each woman to bring her own case flood the nation’s courts with litigation involving thousands of similar cases, if Wal-mart acted improperly, it most likely made billions of dollars by not paying equal pay for equal work and by systematically denying female workers promotions. It only makes sense that, if a company systematically violates the law, it should also be required to systematically defend its conduct.

For more information on this cutting edge case, see http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/24/BA2A16MCPP.DTL

Tim Pauley

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