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US: Fired worker wins Wal-Mart case

BBC News
June 20th, 2007

A female pharmacist dismissed by Wal-Mart has been awarded nearly $2m (1m) in damages after a jury concluded she was the victim of discrimination.

Cynthia Haddad sued the world's largest retailer after losing her job in 2004.

She argued that she was dismissed because she had asked to be paid the same as male counterparts at a Wal-Mart store in Massachusetts.

Wal-Mart, which faces a separate class action sex discrimination lawsuit, says it does not discriminate against women.

The retailer did not comment after the verdict.

Equal pay

The jury awarded Ms Haddad nearly $1m in compensation for her dismissal and $1m in punitive damages.

"It sends a message that you cannot treat people poorly because of who they are," said David Belfort, her attorney.

Ms Haddad had worked for the firm for 10 years before her dismissal, which, she said, came two weeks after she made her equal pay claim.

Wal-Mart's lawyers argued she was fired because she had left the pharmacy unmanned and that a technician had used her security code to issue a fraudulent prescription.

In response, Ms Haddad said the prescription had been issued 18 months before her dismissal and without her knowledge.

Controversial practices

Wal-Mart's employment practices have long been a source of controversy, with critics claiming that female employees are consistently overlooked in terms of pay and promotion.

Earlier this year, a US court cleared the way for a lawsuit by six current and former employees who claim they were subjected to continuous discrimination over many years.

The legal action has been granted class action status, meaning that more than a million other former staff will have their grievances considered.

Wal-Mart has always said it does not discriminate against women, stressing that decisions on promotion and other employment matters are often delegated to individual store managers.

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