Wal-Mart: Shoulda Listened to the Lawyers

According to today’s New York Times, Wal-Mart was given fair warning about its hiring and promotion practices long before a record-setting 2001 gender discrimination lawsuit cropped up, a warning that Wal-Mart chose to ignore. The kicker is that Wal-Mart was the one who hired the attorneys to examine their exposure to this kind of lawsuit.

The law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, found widespread gender disparities in pay and promotion at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores and urged the company to take basic steps — like posting every job opening and creating specific goals to promote women and minorities — to avoid liability.

The 1995 report said that women employed by Wal-Mart earned less than men in numerous job categories, with men in salaried jobs earning 19 percent more than women. By one measure, the law firm found, men were five and a half times as likely as women to be promoted into salaried, management positions.

Without significant changes, the lawyers said in their confidential analysis, Wal-Mart “would find it difficult to fashion a persuasive explanation for disproportionate employment patterns.”

The case has been given the green-light to move forward as a class action by the Ninth Circuit (my former resident Circuit). The site, walmartclass.com is keeping strict tabs on the developments as they happen while also acting as an outreach for women who may have a claim:


On April 26, 2010, the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion upholding class certification again. Please click here for the press release. To read the opinion, please click here.

What Will Happen Next with the Case?

The Ninth Circuit has now ruled that the case can go forward as a class action. Wal-Mart has until the end of July to ask the United States Supreme Court to reconsider this decision and we expect that the company will do so. The Supreme Court does not automatically hear appeals. We will know by September or October if it will hear this case. If the Supreme Court takes the case, it will decide by June 2011 whether the class action can go ahead to trial. If it does not take the case, the case will go back to the trial court in San Francisco, which will set the case for trial probably in late 2011 or 2012.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Wal-Mart, I am shocked that Wal-Mart chose not to heed the words of their evidently prophetic lawyers. What’s worse is that the attorney for the plaintiffs plans to subpoena this report to work in it’s favor.

Hate to say I told you so, but…