A group of women is suing Wal-Mart (photo), the world’s biggest retailer, arguing that they were held back because of their gender.
The US Supreme Court is currently hearing evidence in order to decide whether the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in American history should go ahead.
The group claims Wal-Mart systematically discriminated against women in stores across America, and want to bring a class action suit on behalf of more than a million women.
On Tuesday a group of women demonstrated outside the Supreme Court building chanting “fair pay now”.
Wal-Mart denies the allegations, claiming it promotes women employees and pays them well. The company also said it has won awards for its women-friendly working practices.
“Wal-Mart has had – for many years – strong policies against discrimination and these policies are there to ensure women are promoted and paid well,” company spokesman Greg Rossiter said.
‘Lost pay and damages’
One of six women named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit is Christine Kwapnowski, who says she was passed over for pay and promotion in favour of male colleagues.
“I asked what I needed to do to get promoted and my manager said I should ‘doll up and blow the cobwebs off my make-up,’“ she told the BBC.
The six plaintiffs are making their claim under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, arguing that “the policies and practices underlying this discriminatory treatment are consistent throughout Wal-Mart”.
Seeking lost pay and damages, the women want the US Supreme Court to allow the case to proceed as a class action lawsuit, which would cover any woman who has worked for, or works for, one of more than 3,400 Wal-Mart stores in the US since December 1998.
The suit has already been allowed to proceed as a class action by two lower courts and Wal-Mart appealed to the Supreme Court.
According to Wal-Mart a class action lawsuit would unnecessarily include women who do not have a grievance against the firm.
The Supreme Court’s decision is not expected until June.