(UNDATED) - A landmark discrimination is now before the Supreme Court of the United States. It involves how one Iconic American retailer allegedly treated its female employees.
The plaintiffs accuse Wal-Mart of passing them over for promotions, paying them less than men, and fostering an environment where sexism is pervasive. "Before I was promoted, when I was asking what I need to do, I was told I needed to blow the cobwebs off my makeup and to doll up," Chris Kwapnoski, employed by Wal-Mart Inc. at Sam's Club since 1986 in Grandview, Mo. And Concord, Ca., said.
Wal-Mart has asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the class action sex discrimination lawsuit.
The Supreme Court must now decide---not whether thousands of Wal-Mart's female employees were discriminated against-- but whether they should be allowed to bring the biggest class action lawsuit ever against America's largest private employer.
"What's wrong with this case is that three plaintiffs are trying to represent more than one-point-five-million associates," Gisel Ruiz, Wal-Mart Human Resources, said.
The three women on the court appeared to be most sympathetic to the plaintiffs' case. Ruth Bader Ginsburg asked, "Isn't there some responsibility on the company to say, 'Is gender discrimination at work?' And if there is, isn't there an obligation to stop it?"
Justice Antonin Scalia couldn't reconcile the idea that individual managers handled hiring properly with the argument that Wal-Mart, as a company, discriminated as part of a corporate policy. "Which is it?" Scalia said. "It's either individual supervisors who are left on their own or there is a strong corporate culture that tells you what to do."
If the lawsuit is allowed to proceed, it could involve as many as 1.5 million female employees seeking back pay that could amount to billions of dollars. "If they rule against us, the fight has just begun. The fight has just begun," Betty Dukes, employed by Wal-Mart since May 1994, currently a Wal-Mart "Greeter, said.
The suit was originally filed in 2001, and lower courts have ruled the case should proceed.
A decision from the Supreme Court is due in early Summer.