On Monday, the federal appeals court in San Francisco narrowly agreed to allow a sex discrimination suit against Wal-Mart to proceed as a class action on behalf of more than 1 million women. At the center of the landmark case are three Berkeley lawyers, Brad Seligman, Betty Lawrence and Jocelyn Larkin.

Lawrence practices at San Francisco-based Davis, Cowell & Bowe, a firm “committed to public service and social justice”. Seligman is the executive director and Larkin the deputy executive director of Berkeley-based Impact Fund, which “provides strategic leadership and support for litigation to achieve economic and social justice”.

The 6-5 decision in Dukes v Wal-Mart by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals came after nearly a decade of legal wrangling (you can read the entire decision here; photo, above right, shows Seligman and plaintiff Betty Dukes after an earlier court decision in 2004). Seligman is lead counsel for the plaintiffs and the Impact Fund has supported the action since it was filed in June, 2001.  The suit alleges systematic discrimination against women in compensation and promotions at both Wal-Mart and its subsidiary, Sam’s Club. It is the largest civil rights class action suit in history.

Following the court decision on Monday, Seligman told The New York Times, “Wal-Mart tries to project an improved image as a good corporate citizen. No amount of P.R. is going to work until it addresses the claims of its female employees.”

Lance Knobel

Lance Knobel (co-founder) has been a journalist for nearly 40 years. Much of his career was in business journalism. He was editor-in-chief of both Management Today, the leading business magazine in Britain,...

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4 Comments

  1. MaleMatters, I went to your link and I am terrified that you believe what is written. It’s an interesting reality you live in.

    Awesome Berkeley lawyers!

  2. It’s said Wal-Mart women’s 78 cents to the men’s dollar is evidence of the company’s wage discrimination against female employees. Then it must also be said Wal-mart women’s 72 percent of sales worker jobs to men’s 28 percent is evidence of the company’s hiring discrimination against men. But this discrimination will be ignored by all courts.

    The Ninth Circuit is blind to the fact that Wal-Mart discriminates mostly against men.

    See “Taking Apart the Sex-Bias Class-Action Lawsuit Against Wal-Mart” at http://tinyurl.com/lnn3xn

  3. It’s said Wal-Mart women’s 78 cents to the men’s dollar is evidence of the company’s wage discrimination against female employees. Then it must also be said Wal-mart women’s 72 percent of sales worker jobs to men’s 28 percent is evidence of the company’s hiring discrimination against men. But this discrimination will be ignored by all courts.

    The Ninth Circuit is blind to the fact that Wal-Mart discriminates mostly against men.

    Says Dr. Warren Farrell, author of “Why Men Earn More”:

    “We can understand that Wal-Mart would hire 99% women in its ladies’ sportswear and hosiery departments, as long as Wal-Mart’s men’s wear department hires about 99% men. But it doesn’t. In Wal-Mart, men’s wear is 93% women.

    Approximately 145,000 Wal-Mart employees are in departments in which 91%-99% of employees are women. With the exception of one department requiring the expertise of auto mechanics — TBO Service (Time Between Overhauls [men love acronyms!] — no department had 90% or more men. Thus, when a department did have disproportionately men, it was usually because of either specific skills needed (maintenance, 80% men) or the risk of personal safety and willingness to use physical strength (security, 88% men).
    Whether in women’s wear or men’s wear, at Wal-Mart or anywhere, women are more likely to be hired when skills aren’t required.

    Now here’s the irony. Wal-Mart is being sued, for discrimination against women — fewer are promoted to top management. Yet no one is asking about the degree to which the discrimination against women is accounted for by the discrimination for women — hiring almost all women in positions requiring few or no skills. It seems obvious that an assessment of discrimination should begin by asking, “What percentage of equally skilled men versus women get promoted?”

    How many jobless men, especially young minority men, would love to have one of these jobs held by women, many of whom may be supported by a husband?

    See “Taking Apart the Sex-Bias Class-Action Lawsuit Against Wal-Mart” at http://tinyurl.com/lnn3xn