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.
Federal regulators ignored their duty to investigate a decade's worth of allegedly discriminatory environmental conditions, Sierra Club and others claim in Federal Court.
Enacted as part of the Civil Rights Act, Title VI prohibits programs that receive federal funding from discriminating on the basis of race, color and national origin.
In a July 15 complaint, five groups and one of their officials point to administrative complaints they filed with the Environmental Protection Agency between 1994 and 2003, concerning the ongoing operation of hazardous waste dumps and other pollution-spewing facilities in low-income and minority communities in Michigan, California, Texas, New Mexico and Alabama.
Though federal law requires the EPA to issue preliminary findings and recommendations within 180 days of receiving such complaints, Sierra Club and the others complain that "EPA has utterly failed to meet this deadline in each case."
The Maurice and Jane Sugar Law Center say they filed the first complaint in 1994, saying a Michigan agency had failed to consider how a wood-burning power plant in Flint would affect the community's primarily black residents.
The EPA allegedly should have issued preliminary findings by July 1995, but 20 years later, no action has taken place, according to the complaint.
Californians for Renewable Energy and its president, Michael Boyd, say they lodged a complaint in April 2000 over the construction of two power plants in Pittsburg, California, where most residents were nonwhite and low-income.
The EPA accepted that complaint in December 2001 but has yet to issue findings or recommendations in violation of its mandate, according to the complaint.
Sierra Club says its Lone Star Chapter complained in April 2000 as well about an ExxonMobil oil refinery permitted to increase emissions in Beaumont, Texas, where 95 percent of the affected population was black.
The EPA accepted that complaint in June 2003 but still hasn't issued any findings or recommendations, according to the suit.
Citizens for Alternatives to Radioactive Dumping allegedly complained about the approval of a hazardous waste dump in Chaves County, New Mexico, in September 2002.
In addition to claiming that the state failed to consider the dump's impact on the Hispanic community, the group says the "hostile" permitting process excluded members of the public since relevant documents were not provided in Spanish.
"The county has a high percentage of people living in poverty and already suffers worse air quality and higher rates of infant mortality, congenital abnormalities and hospitalization for respiratory illnesses than any other counties in the state," the complaint states.
In December 2003, the Ashurst Bar/Smith Community Organization complained about the approval of a landfill in Tallassee, Alabama. Noting that most of the county's solid-waste landfills are located in primarily black communities, the group says Alabama failed to ensure the placement of the dump was nondiscriminatory.
Residents now must deal with "putrid smells that on some days can travel up to three miles from the landfill, and vultures and other pests that are attracted to the landfill," according to the complaint.
The EPA allegedly accepted that complaint 10 years after it was filed in January 2013 and has since missed its deadline to issue findings and recommendations.
Each group alleges violations of the Administrative Procedure Act.
They are represented by Jonathan Smith of Earthjustice, who said in an interview that the EPA has never provided a valid explanation as to why "something that should take 180 days" has taken 10 years or longer with no foreseeable resolution.
"We feel 10, and in some instances, 20 years to investigate these complaints is definitely not timely and not a valid way for the EPA to enforce the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VI," Smith said.
The plaintiffs want a federal judge to find that the EPA failed to meet its duty, to compel the EPA to issue findings and recommendations within 90 days.
EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Colaizzi said the EPA is unable to comment on ongoing litigation.
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