Nearly a year and a half since the U.S. Supreme Court tossed a class action lawsuit filed by some 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees who say they hit a corporate glass ceiling, the plaintiffs hit a brick wall in Texas.
Because the court ruled the women of Wal-Mart could not sue as a class, a number of regional complaints have been filed, one of them in Dallas federal court. The plaintiff, among others, is a woman named Stephanie Odle. It seemed she was on the fast track to Wal-Mart upper management. They bounced her around stores in California, Nevada, Dallas, Sherman and ultimately Lubbock. Every time she was up for a promotion, though, management found some excuse to deny her and give the gig to a man.
When she finally landed in Lubbock, she found out three men were taking a test that could result in a promotion to store manager or co-manager at the retailer's Sam's Club. She asked to take it, but was told only three were allowed. That same month, while she was training a new employee on a cash register where no actual store money would be lost, she reported a $13 discrepancy. Nobody acted concerned at the time, but before long she was placed on administrative leave. Then she got a pink slip.
She found out later on that a male manager from Phoenix had been dispatched to replace her at her store in Lubbock before the training discrepancy was even reported. Odle filed a complaint with the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission in 1999. The agency issued of notice of right to file suit against Wal-Mart. Her lawsuit was at the root of the class action that eventually wound its way to the Supreme Court.
It was a long road, and it ended in disappointment in Dallas this week. The suit was tossed not because it didn't have merit. It was tossed on procedural grounds, because the "statute of limitations" had run. They call it "piggy-backing." If the Supreme Court -- even a split one -- finds Odle and 1.5 million other female Wal-Mart employees don't constitute a class, the statute has run on all other class action lawsuits.
Or, at least, that's what Judge O'Connor says. The plaintiffs plan to appeal.
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