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Old tricks at Wal-Mart

A federal appeals court in San Francisco voted 6-to-5 to affirm certification of the largest gender discrimination lawsuit in the nation’s history, with retail behemoth Wal-Mart as defendant.

Wal-Mart had argued that “conventional rules of class action suits should not apply because each outlet operates as an independent business,” AP reports.

It’s not the first time the company has take this approach, as we noted here last year.  When President John Kennedy persuaded Congress to extend the minimum wage law to retail workers, businesses with annual sales below $250,000 were exempted.  Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton promptly divided his stores into individual companies.

A federal court eventually ruled this was “simply a scheme to avoid paying the minimum wage,” as Harold Myerson recounted in the American Prospect.

Now Wal-Mart argues there’s no company-wide policy of discrimination against women.  But given the pattern of lawsuits charging wage-and-hour violations across the country – Wal-Mart has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements – and the centrally-directed attacks and firings anytime labor organizers show up, it’s certainly worth a good hard look.

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Category: labor, Wal-Mart, women


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