It's been more than a decade since the federal suit first surfaced: Betty Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the sexual discrimination lawsuit that would eventually lead to a class-action suit and the book Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Worker's Rights at Wal-Mart, whose author often compared the lead plaintiff to Rosa Parks. And among Dukes's early-days compatriots was Stephanie Odle, a longtime worker for the discount chain who spent time in California, Nevada and Texas locations, including a '93 stint in Dallas at a Sam's Club.
It was after her time here that Odle says she first noticed: Wal-Mart treats its female workers poorly -- slashing their wages, refusing them promotions, making them the butt of crude jokes. Lesser qualified men were being given chances to advance, while women were being told they made too much money; and in the end, Odle says, she was fired for reporting wrongdoing on the part of a male higher-up. Story after story after story confirmed: Dukes and Odle had plenty of company.
Slowly the case worked through the courts, till in June the U.S. Supreme Court blocked consolidating the claims of some 1.5 million female Wal-Mart workers into a class action. But the women vowed: They would be back; their attorneys too. And so they returned Thursday, first to California, where Odle, now living in Norman, Oklahoma, joined others in filing the first Wal-Mart employment discrimination suit naming the stores in a single state. Brad Seligman, one of the lead attorneys, said: "The case we are starting today is the first of many." He called it "Wal-Mart 2.0."
Yesterday, the they filed the second suit -- this one in Dallas federal court on behalf of "present and former female Wal-Mart retail store employees who have been subjected to gender discrimination as a result of specific policies and practices in Wal-Mart's regions located in whole or in part in Texas." Per the suit, Wal-Mart has 451 locations in the state, including Sam's, and employs upwards of 140,000.
In yesterday's New York Times, Wal-Mart's attorneys and spokespeople dismissed the California suit as "unstable" (insisting each plaintiff's case is dissimilar and unsuitable for a class action) and more about "publicity value" than "legal virtue." Friday's filing follows.