FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wal-Mart Women Plaintiffs File Expanded Class Action Lawsuit in Texas Federal Court
Lawsuit seeks an end to pay and management promotion discrimination in Texas Stores
(DALLAS, Texas –January 19, 2012) Charging that Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., discriminated against female employees in stores throughout Texas, attorneys today filed an amended complaint in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas, Dallas District, against the retailer on behalf of current and former female Wal-Mart employees. The complaint expands the case by charging widespread denial of equal pay to female employees, and cites specific examples of biased statements by Wal-Mart's senior managers.
The complaint– Odle, et al v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. – seeks an end to Wal-Mart's discriminatory practices regarding the pay and promotion of female employees in its Texas stores and punitive damages for the plaintiffs in the class. It is the second regional discrimination case filed against Wal-Mart since the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2011 reversed a lower court's ruling on the national class action against the retailer and issued new guidelines for class actions and Title VII Civil Rights Act employment discrimination cases. The first regional complaint, Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., was filed in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, in October 2011.
"This suit alleges Wal-Mart Texas Regions have a general policy of discrimination. What we have found during our discovery is a consistent and willful practice of discrimination in pay and promotion against women employees in Wal-Mart stores throughout Texas," said plaintiffs' lead co-counsel Hal K. Gillespie, of Gillespie, Rozen & Watsky, PC, of Dallas. "This case is in complete compliance with the new class action and employment discrimination guidelines. We can now seek justice for these women, many of whom had been discriminated against for more than a decade."
The complaint first was filed in Texas in October 2011 to protect the rights of named plaintiff Stephanie Odle to sue Wal-Mart before the statute of limitations in her case expired. Odle, of Norman, Okla., who worked in Texas Wal-Mart stores from 1991 to 1999, filed the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claim that ultimately resulted in the Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., national class action.
Odle is joined as named plaintiff in the Texas case by former Wal-Mart employees Alesia Thurston of Houston; Celia Dian Trevino, of Floresville, Texas; Elise Dominguez of El Paso; Luana Roach of Sachse, Texas; and Desiree Melchor of Richmond, Texas; and current Wal-Mart employee Pamela Collins of Ennis, Texas. The seven named plaintiffs represent in excess of 50,000 current or former women employees—with the exception of store managers and pharmacists— of Texas Wal-Mart, and subsidiary Sam's Club, stores.
Evidence in the case shows that women who hold salaried and hourly positions in the Texas stores have been paid less than men in comparable positions, although on average the women have more seniority and higher performance ratings than men. This, despite the fact that regional and district senior management received regular reports about compensation showing that female employees on average were paid less than men. For example, named plaintiff Elise Dominguez, who transferred to an El Paso Wal-Mart store for job advancement and was ultimately made department manager, learned that the previous male manager made twice what she was being paid. When she complained about the pay disparity, she was told that she "should count herself lucky that she was even transferred."
Women in Wal-Mart's Texas stores also had a much lower chance of being promoted than men, and those who did get promoted waited significantly longer for job promotions. This continued to occur even after senior Wal-Mart management officials and outside consultants warned Wal-Mart that women are not sufficiently represented in management positions, that women are paid less than male employees in the same jobs, and that Wal-Mart lags behind its competitors in the promotion of women to management positions. For example, all of the named plaintiffs regularly applied for and were denied management positions, even as several trained men with less experience for management jobs.
Evidence also confirms that Wal-Mart's male managers had biased views of women – from the top down. For example, on January 24, 2004, at a meeting of all Wal-Mart's district managers presided over by Wal-Mart Stores' then Vice Chairman Thomas Coughlin, the district managers were told that they were the key to running the stores: "you are the culture." The key to success was described as "single focus to get the job done. . . women tend to be better at information processing. Men are better at focus single objective." The district managers were instructed to create a "culture of execution" and a "culture of results" as they picked "future leaders."
This attitude had long permeated management policies in stores throughout Texas. According to the complaint:
- Store managers in Houston and Abilene, Texas, justified paying less to female employees on the grounds that the male employees "had families to support." When an employee at the Abilene store complained, her manager told her she should be "happy with the money she made."
- In Dallas, a store manager informed a female back door receiving manager that it was a job for a man. The same was true of a female employee in Hulen, Texas, who when she expressed interest in a salaried management position was told that as a woman she was better suited for the "front end" (hourly wage, customer interface type) position.
- A store manager in El Paso justified the disparate treatment of a female co-manager by the district manager as something to be expected since the female co-manager was not part of the "good 'ol' boy'" network, unlike her male counterparts.
- A district manager told named plaintiff Luana Roach that there "were already enough female assistant managers, so she would just be made a deli lead." Another district manager told a female employee who complained about her less experienced ex-husband making a higher salary than she did, "That's just the way it is. Men always get paid more."
The plaintiffs are seeking a jury trial in the case. For more information, or for a copy of the amended complaint, visit www.walmartclass.com.