Costco Settles Gender|Bias Class Action

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – After more than 10 years of legal wrangling, lawyers told a federal judge Friday that Costco has settled the last remaining claims in a class action accusing the bulk retailer of gender bias.
     U.S. District Judge Edward Chen said he was glad both sides had reached an agreement, and wasn’t disappointed that he wouldn’t get to preside over the scheduled 10-day bench trial set to begin Friday.
     The long-running litigation began in 2004, with a class action filed by Shirley “Rae” Ellis that accused Costco of overlooking women for promotions to assistant and general manager positions since 2002.
     U.S. District Judge Marilyn Patel granted class certification in 2007. But in 2011, the Ninth Circuit affirmed in part, vacated in part and remanded the order for reconsideration in light of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, which challenged the giant retailer’s disparate pay and promotions for men and women.
     In Dukes, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a class can’t be certified in gender-bias labor cases of this type because of the variability of plaintiffs’ individual circumstances.
     Costco filed a motion for an order eliminating class claims on remand, and the plaintiffs filed a cross-motion for class certification.
     In 2012, Chen approved injunctive and monetary relief classes of 700 women in the suit. In contrast to Dukes, he wrote that the Costco case presented claims that were “narrow in scope” since the plaintiffs chose to go after Costco’s promotion policies for general-manager and assistant general-manager positions, rather than the more sweeping claims presented in Dukes.
     Chen appointed current Costco employee Elaine Sasaki as representative of the injunctive relief class, and Ellis, Sasaki and Leah Horstman as class representatives of the monetary class.
     In 2013, Costco announced that it would pay $8 million to settle the case, but Sasaki’s claim that she was denied general-manager promotions because of her gender remained.
     Chen ruled this year that Sasaki could move forward with her claim that a supervisor was freezing her out in retaliation for the original lawsuit, and that she could “piggy-back” on Ellis’ original disparate-treatment claim.
     On Friday, plaintiffs’ attorneys said they could not comment on the settlement but said Sasaki’s individual claims had been resolved. Costco attorneys also declined to comment, but told Chen they would file a stipulation for dismissal next week.

%d bloggers like this: