SAN FRANCISCO -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was accused Tuesday of rampant
discrimination against female workers in a federal lawsuit against the
nation's largest private employer.
The suit, which seeks to represent as many as 500,000 current and former
women workers, claims the company ''systematically discriminates against
its women employees,'' said Brad Seligman, one of several attorneys on the
If granted class-action status, the suit would become the nation's largest
gender-based discrimination case against a private employer. The plaintiffs
are seeking to change the company's alleged discriminatory practices.They
have not specified how much money they are seeking.
''Wal-Mart does not condone discrimination of any kind,'' said Bill Wertz,
a spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer. ''Women hold
positions of significant responsibility at Wal-Mart.''
Wal-Mart, which also operates Sam's Club, employs nearly 1 million people,
three-fourth of them women.
Wertz said women are well represented at the company - the chief executive
of walmart.com is a woman, as is one of three executive vice presidents of
Sam's Club, he said. Women also hold high positions in the company's labor
relations and legal departments.
In all, Wertz said, women hold 37 percent of 55,000 management positions.
He also said that Wal-Mart does not count store department managers as
management, while other retailers might to inflate their figures.
The suit, filed in San Francisco's U.S. District Court, asserts there are
nearly double the number of women in management at competing retail stores
and that male Wal-Mart workers get higher pay than women for the same
duties. It claims the retailing giant passes over women for promotions and
training, and retaliates against women who register complaints.
Micki Miller Earwood, a former personnel manager at an Urbana, Ohio,
Wal-Mart, said she recently was fired after complaining about what she said
was discriminatory treatment.
''Wal-Mart is not a place I would ever hope for my daughter to work at,''
said Earwood, one of six plaintiffs in the suit.