The lawyers who have made attempts to sway the courts that female workers at Wal-Mart are suffering from gender bias continue to struggle to get their voices heard. A judge in California dismissed the class action discrimination lawsuit that was issued on behalf of 150,000 Wal-Mart employees, and that claimed that male colleagues were paid more and promoted faster. This latest suit follows up a 2001 complains that intended to represent 1.6 million women nationwide, but which was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2011 because it included too many women in too many jobs, and the decisions made about their work were not informed by one decision-maker or policy, but distributed too diffusely to make a solid case.
That’s why the lawyers scaled down the case, and sought to lay their claims for it in California, representing 150,000 women instead of 1.6 million. Nevertheless, this other attempt was also shot down, and for the same reasons.
“To show a common question underlying their disparate treatment claims, plaintiffs must provide significant proof that Wal-Mart operated under a general policy of discrimination,” said U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in his Friday ruling, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. “They have not amassed sufficient anecdotal evidence of bias and stereotyped thinking among management to establish significant proof of a general policy of discrimination within any management group.”
In other words, he was suggesting that individually certain women might have case, but as an aggregate, they were too dissimilar from each other to justify an aggregate case.
“Rather than identify an employment practice and define a class around it, plaintiffs continue to challenge the discretionary decisions of hundreds of decision makers, while arbitrarily confining their proposed class to corporate regions that include stores in California, among other states,” he said.
The plaintiff’s attorney, Randy Renick, plans to appeal the ruling.
Wal-Mart is naturally pleased about the ruling, and also suggested in a statement that Wal-Mart is in fact a great place for women to work. The ruling “rejects the attempt of a few associates to turn their individual complaints into a sweeping and unwarranted class action,” they said in a statement. But Wal-Mart is a “great place for women to work and advance” and the allegations in this case “are not representative of the positive experiences that hundreds of thousands of women have had working at Wal-Mart,” the company said.
Whether or not such sweeping statements as this are themselves true, or just opportune corporate propaganda, are uncertain at this point, but the women’s lawyers continue to seek a way to get an in for their case to be heard.