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9 May 2019

Bryce Covert, Time

Nearly Two Decades Ago, Women Across the Country Sued Walmart for Discrimination. They’re Not Done Fighting

These claims against the world’s largest retailer do indeed stretch back two decades. In 2001, a Walmart greeter in Pittsburg, Calif., named Betty Dukes filed a class action, calling the company “an industry leader not only in size, but also in its failure to advance its female employees.” Renati was among the first women to join and submitted a declaration to the court detailing her claims.

In a motion for class certification filed in 2003, the plaintiffs’ attorneys laid out a pattern of discrimination. “What is striking about their stories,” they wrote, “is that, even though they worked in different stores, in different states, and in different departments, they experienced the same discriminatory policies and suffered the same adverse effects.” They cited an analysis conducted on behalf of the plaintiffs finding that in 2001, women made up 67% of the company’s hourly workers but only about 14% of store managers; their ranks thinned at every step up the company’s hierarchy ...

In the Walmart case, the women claimed the company had violated their rights under Title VII. Lower courts certified the Dukes class, but in 2011 the Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs–as many as 1.5 million female employees–did not have enough in common to be considered a class ...

Originally the plan was to regroup the claims into regional classes. Then in 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in an unrelated case that after a class action is struck down, the subsequent lawsuits have to be brought individually, not as smaller classes, to be considered timely.

It was yet another setback but not one that would cause the women to abandon their complaints. After all, attorneys for the plaintiffs point out, the courts haven’t ruled on the actual claims. So far, their hurdles have been procedural.