More than 500 current and former female employees of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have filed discrimination claims against the retailer with the U.S. Equal Employment and Opportunity Commission after a national class-action lawsuit was blocked by the Supreme Court last year.
The claims were filed to preserve the women's rights to pursue individual and regional class-action suits against Wal-Mart over alleged discrimination on pay and promotions, their attorneys said.
"The fight continues to seek justice for the women employees of Wal-Mart," said Joseph Sellers, one of the attorneys representing the women, in a statement. "The Supreme Court did not give Wal-Mart a free pass to discriminate."
In an interview, Sellers said that the 500 or so Wal-Mart workers are from five states -- Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi and North Carolina -- and were required to file by a Jan. 27. deadline in order to pursue their claims.
Employees in the other 45 states have until May 25 to file with the EEOC, and thousands are expected to do so in the coming months, Sellers said. "This is just the tip of the iceberg," he said.
Last June in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against Wal-Mart employees attempting to bring a huge class-action lawsuit representing 1.5 million female workers against the retailer. In one of the most important job-bias cases of the decade, the court ruled that employees can get together for such a class-action suit only if there is proof that the company has a policy of paying less to women or minorities. Statistics revealing that female workers at a business earn less and receive fewer promotions compared with men is not sufficient evidence, the court said.
In response to the new claims, Wal-Mart spokesman Greg Rossiter said that the company believes that "anyone with a legitimate claim should have their day in court."
"It's important to remember that these claims have never been heard on their merits," Rossiter said. "The Supreme Court noted in the ruling in Wal-Mart's favor that the company had strict policies against discrimination and the plaintiffs were worlds away from showing otherwise."