SOUTHFIELD, Mich. - Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the biggest US private employer, lost a bid to have an appeals court reconsider its decision to allow 2 million current and former female workers to sue as a group with bias claims.
A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court in San Francisco again rejected the company's request to throw out a 2004 lower-court ruling that granted class-action status to the lawsuit, the biggest sexual discrimination case in US history. The women accuse Wal-Mart of paying women less than men and giving them fewer promotions.
The panel upheld its Feb. 6 decision that a district judge did not err in granting class certification. It told Wal-Mart it could appeal to the full appeals court for a rehearing of the matter.
Wal-Mart, which is seeking to appeal the 2004 decision with a full nine-judge panel, will now have to restart its request for the rehearing, company lawyer Ted Boutros said.
The lawsuit was filed in 2001 by six women. The workers are seeking billions of dollars in back pay and punitive damages, court-ordered changes in Wal-Mart's practices, and independent monitoring.
Wal-Mart has said there is no pay disparity between men and women at most of its stores and that it should be allowed to rebut workers' claims of discrimination individually.