PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. -- Walmart Stores Inc. pays women less than men for the same work and doesn't give women equal chance for promotion, says a class action lawsuit filed in federal court on Thursday by 11 Florida women, including one each from Palm Beach and Broward counties.
The women want cash compensation and a court order telling Walmart to end its gender discrimination.
The case, filed in U.S. District Court in Fort Lauderdale, is similar to cases filed in California, Texas and Tennessee in the last year.
All four cases are regionalized versions of a national class action suit struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer. The case was struck down not based on its merits, but because the class of female Walmart employees was too large and diverse.
The smaller class sizes might get the case upheld at the Supreme Court level, said Ted Leopold, managing partner at Leopold Law P.A. in Palm Beach Gardens. He is representing the 11 women.
"Walmart has a conscious indifference to women employees, where it's part of their policies at the company to not treat female employees the same as male employees," he said.
The new case is a "recycling of the old case struck down by the Supreme Court," said Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove. Walmart has antidiscrimination policies, he said. The claims in the case, he pointed out, are only alleged at this point.
The case bases its claims on interviews with women who worked or work for Walmart. It claims the company has shown a "pattern and practice of making pay and promotion decision on the basis of gender."
The case cites research that found about 90 percent of Walmart and Sam's Club stores in Florida and other parts of the southeast have fewer female managers than male managers and pay women less than men in the same jobs.
Some examples of the discrimination Florida women working at Walmart have experienced, according to the suit:
• Christina Going, the Palm Beach County plaintiff, quit her job at Walmart after four years because she was passed over for promotion many times in favor of less experience male applications. She also noticed she was making less than men with less experience, and her manager told her it was because, "Single mothers like you don't deserve to make as much, you should be in a two income household."
• Daven Miller, the Broward County plaintiff, still works at Walmart and has since May 2007. She has been paid less than her male co-workers with equal or less experience the whole time, the case says.
• A woman was told by her male manager men should make more than women, because "they have families to support." In this woman's case, she had a family and her male co-workers making more money didn't.
• Some women have been told that the automotive, electronic and sporting goods departments, which pay higher, are "not for women" or that each of those departments "is a man thing." One woman was told cosmetics would be more "appropriate" and another that the jewelry department would be more fitting.
• A woman applying as manager of the pet department was told "a woman is not suited for the job."
• One woman heard from a male manager that women could not be supervisors because they "were married … and had children" and "their responsibilities were to their home life, not being promoted at Walmart." Another was told she "was not cut out for Assistant Manager because she had children."
• One of the plaintiffs, Gail Lovejoy of Pasco County, routinely heard her managers comment, for example, that it's best to "keep women barefoot and pregnant—that is where they belong."
• Another woman applying for overnight work was told by her manager she was rejected for the job because "she couldn't do any overnight work because she was too busy being too pretty."
• The case also describes a meeting of district managers in 2004 presided over by CEO Thomas Coughlin, where the managers were told to hire managers with "single focus." They were also told to keep in mind that men are better at "single focus to get the job done" while women are better at "information processing."
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