Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT:US) women workers in Tennessee and four other southern states can’t pursue sex- discrimination claims against the company through a class action, or group lawsuit, a federal judge said.
The class action is barred because it was filed too late, U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger in Nashville said today. A 1988 decision by the federal appeals court in Cincinnati in a separate case, known as Andrews v. Orr, blocks the women from joining a new class action, she said.
“The class claims are time-barred,” she said in her 54- page decision. “Unless this court finds that Andrews is no longer good law, the court is constrained to apply the holding in Andrews to this case.” Trauger didn’t rule on the merits of the women’s claims.
The lawsuit was filed in Nashville last year by three women who claimed Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, paid women (WMT:US) less than men in comparable jobs and blocked promotions for female workers in five southern states. The women sought to proceed on behalf of Wal-Mart’s female employees in the company’s Region 43, which comprises Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia and Mississippi.
“We are disappointed by the U.S. District Court ruling, but will seek review in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals,” Joseph Sellers, an attorney for the women, said today.
David Tovar, a spokesman for Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart, didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment on the ruling.
The suit is the one of four regional gender-discrimination claims filed against Wal-Mart following a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2011 rejecting a nationwide class action. Women in California, Texas and Florida have filed lawsuits as well. The Texas class claim was dismissed in October.
The lawsuit is Phipps v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., 12-cv-01009, U.S. District Court, Middle District of Tennessee (Nashville).
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