Factbox: Key facts in Wal-Mart discrimination case

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 22, 2011 5:51 PM
Factbox: Key facts in Wal-Mart discrimination case

(Reuters) - The Supreme Court hears arguments on March 29 in the largest sex-discrimination class-action lawsuit ever as Wal-Mart Stores Inc's female employees seek billions of dollars from the giant retailer.

Here are some key facts and allegations that have emerged during the 10-year-old lawsuit.

* A Wal-Mart senior human resources official saw nothing wrong with business meetings at Hooters restaurants, known for its buxom waitresses, lawyers for the plaintiffs said. Numerous Wal-Mart managers admitted they regularly went to strip clubs when attending company management meetings.

Theodore Boutrous, Wal-Mart's lead attorney in the appeal, dismissed such anecdotes as misleading and said they do not reflect company policy. "It's so far from being representative that it's absurd," he told reporters.

* One woman who brought the lawsuit, Christine Kwapnoski, said a male manager "told her to 'doll up,' wear some makeup and to dress a little better." She said he frequently yelled and screamed at her and other female employees, but seldom did that with male employees.

* Wal-Mart said it operated under a general policy that forbids discrimination, encourages diversity and ensures fair treatment. Founded in 1962 and with its headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, the retailer employs more than 1.4 million people in the United States, the nation's largest private employer. Wal-Mart had about $419 billion in net sales last year and reported $16.4 billion in net income.

* Founder Sam Walton said in 1992 that Wal-Mart's "old way" of requiring managers to move frequently "put good, smart women at a disadvantage" and was unnecessary, but lawyers for the plaintiffs said the policy remained in effect until after the lawsuit was filed in 2001.

* Wal-Mart said its expert concluded that more than 90 percent of its stores showed no statistical difference in hourly pay rates between men and women with similar jobs.

* The federal judge in San Francisco who originally granted class-action status for the lawsuit was U.S. District Court Judge Martin Jenkins, who was appointed to the bench by President Bill Clinton in 1997.

(Reporting by James Vicini in Washington, Editing by Will Dunham)