Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT) has been sued by five Wisconsin, claiming the company has denied them and other female employees equal pay and equal opportunities. The lawsuit, alleging unfair pay practices contingent on gender, is the latest in a slew of suits targeting the hiring and pay practices of the firm.
Jim Kaster of the Minneapolis-based Nichols Kaster PLLP, and a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in a statement announcing the filing that “Women at Wal-Mart were told by management that women deserved less pay and fewer promotions than men because men had families to support.” Kaster’s allegations remain a source of tension in American workplaces, where lip service has been given to equal pay and benefits for years, but data shows a gap continues to exist and isn’t closing rapidly.
Sandra Ladik, the lead plaintiff in the Wisconsin case, worked at the company’s Portage store from 1992 to 2006, according to the complaint. Ladik claims that while serving as a maintenance department manager, she learned that a male co-worker, whom she had trained to become a maintenance supervisor, was being paid more than she was. Ladik alleges that she had more experience and responsibility than her colleague, yet remained under paid.
She and the other women who joined in her case are seeking to proceed on behalf of all women now working in the stores in Wal-Mart’s region 14, or who have worked there since Dec. 26, 1998. They are seeking compensatory awards of back-pay, front- pay and punitive damages, plus other relief.
Wal-Mart is no stranger to lawsuits, and gender discrimination lawsuits seem to be in growing frequency, with recent cases in Michigan, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, and more. “A Tennessee court last week came to the same conclusion as a Texas court ruling last October — that these class action claims are not appropriate,” Randy Hargrove, a spokesman for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, said today in an e-mailed statement.
“Wal-Mart has been successful in making technical legal arguments preventing courts from reaching the merits of women’s claims, and we expect more of these arguments here,” the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Kaster, said. “Nevertheless, we hope that the court in Wisconsin will, after this long period of waiting, finally allow their claims to be heard by a jury.”
Labor issues are beginning to plague the retail giant, with mounting lawsuits and growing vigor for unionizing in many of the stores, litigation will likely be inevitable in the coming years.