Judge lets Walmart discrimination case proceed for now

Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:29pm EDT
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By Dan Levine

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge rejected Wal-Mart Stores Inc's (WMT.N: Quote) request to dismiss a gender discrimination case filed in California, but said he would rule later about whether the women plaintiffs had enough evidence to be certified as a class.

The ruling on Friday came from U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco federal court.

Plaintiffs alleging the world's largest retailer denied them pay raises and promotions because of their gender are regrouping after the U.S. Supreme Court last year dismantled a class of up to 1.5 million current and former Walmart workers.

The Walmart workers filed a reformulated lawsuit, saying they were confining their allegations to California. The new case could include several hundred thousand potential class members.

Walmart argued in part that the long history of the case, with over 10 years of litigation, warranted dismissal of the reformulated lawsuit.

But in his order on Friday, Breyer said he was not prepared to deny the plaintiffs an opportunity to present evidence.

Walmart attorney Theodore Boutrous Jr. said the company has a strong policy against discrimination, and that the claims are unsuitable for a class action.

"The purported statewide class the plaintiffs allege is no more appropriate today than the nationwide class the Supreme Court has already rejected," Boutrous said.   Continued...

Products are displayed outside a Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market store in Bentonville, Arkansas, May 31, 2012. REUTERS/Jacob Slaton