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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, June 20, 2001

Women sue Wal-Mart over promotions, pay

Bloomberg News Service

SAN FRANCISCO — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. was sued by female employees who contend the world's largest retailer discriminates against women in promotions and pay.

Betty Dukes, who works in Wal-Mart's store in Pittsburg, Calif., is asking a judge to bar the retail chain from denying female workers equal access to management slots, pay raises and training opportunities.

"There is a great divide between men and women," said Dukes, a customer service manager who was demoted to cashier. "Many positions become available and they were filled by men."

Five women who formerly worked at Wal-Mart stores in California, Illinois, Oklahoma, Florida, and Ohio joined Dukes in the suit filed yesterday in federal court in San Francisco. Women make up 72 percent of Wal-Mart's hourly sales work force.

The suit seeks class-action status. Plaintiffs' lawyers expect that about 700,000 current and former employees would join the suit, including employees in Hawai'i.

"Wal-Mart doesn't condone discrimination of any kind," said company spokesman Bill Wertz, adding that 37 percent of Wal-Mart's 55,000 management positions are held by women.

A federal judge last week ordered the retailer, which operates 3,000 stores, to air commercials in Arizona admitting it violated a federal disability-bias law.

The commercials were a part of a settlement plea with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had filed suit on behalf of two deaf men Wal-Mart had refused to hire.