Wal-Mart Workers Fight Settlement of Bias Suit

SAN FRANCSICO (CN) — Just as Wal-Mart was about to end 15 years of litigation over claims that it discriminated against female workers, six women on Thursday filed a motion to intervene in the lawsuit.

The six former female employees say letting Wal-Mart settle with five named plaintiffs three years after a judge refused to certify a class of 150,000 women would kill their chance to challenge the ruling.

"If the named plaintiffs had litigated their cases through final judgment, they would then have had the opportunity to appeal the decision denying class certification," the six women wrote in a July 14 motion to intervene.

The named plaintiffs — Betty Dukes, Patricia Surgeson, Edith Arana, Deborah Gunter and Christine Kwaponski — moved to voluntarily dismiss their suit on Friday.

"The five of them reached confidential settlements with Wal-Mart to resolve their claims," said Jennifer Reisch, legal director for Equal Rights Advocates who represents the named plaintiffs.

When Breyer denied the plaintiffs' motion for class certification in 2013, he based his decision on a 2011 Supreme Court ruling that disbanded a class of 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees, finding the group lacked commonality.

The named plaintiffs filed a petition to appeal Breyer's class certification ruling in 2013, but the Ninth Circuit denied that petition.

The six women seeking permission to intervene in the lawsuit are Joyce Clark, Suzanne Hewey, Kristy Farias, Lucretia Johnson, Hilda Todd and Kristin Marsh.

They say they were denied equal pay and equal opportunities for promotion while working at Wal-Marts and Sam's Clubs in California.

The proposed interveners seek to certify three classes of female employees who worked at 202 Wal-Marts and 73 Sam's Clubs in three corporate regions covering California and its neighboring states.

According to their proposed complaint in intervention, 65 to 87 percent of Wal Mart and Sam's Club stores in those three corporate regions pay women less compared to similarly situated men.

The would-be interveners seek regional class certification, damages and an injunction directing Wal-Mart to develop new policies to stop discriminating against female workers.

The intervener plaintiffs' attorney, Randy Renick of Hadsell, Stormer and Renick in Pasadena, California, did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment Friday afternoon.

Wal-Mart's attorney, Catherine Conway of Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher in Los Angeles, also did not respond to a phone call seeking comment Friday.

A hearing on the motion to intervene in the class action is scheduled for Aug. 19 in San Francisco.

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