Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Wal-Mart Ducks Some Gender Bias Class Claims

DALLAS (CN) - A federal judge in Texas tossed gender discrimination class claims against Wal-Mart on Monday, finding them barred by the statute of limitations.

Named plaintiff Stephanie Odle sued the retailer in October 2011 after the U.S. Supreme Court decertified a national class of former female employees in Wal-Mart v. Dukes . That decision found that Betty Dukes and other employees failed to demonstrate class commonality.

Odle's suit alleges females workers are "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," according to the complaint.

Wal-Mart allegedly denies women equal opportunities for promotion to management-track positions, as well as equal pay for hourly retail positions and salaried management positions.

Wal-Mart moved to dismiss part of the amended complaint or, in the alternative, to strike the class claims.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor concluded the class claims "are barred by the statute of limitations, and should be dismissed.

The Monday decision cites the 5th Circuit's "no piggyback rule," which bans former class members from filing a subsequent class action if a court has already found the suit inappropriate for class action, assuming the statute of limitations has already run for their class action claims.

"Piggybacking" of one class action onto another would result in the indefinite tolling of the statute of limitations, the 5th Circuit has ruled.

O'Connor rejected claims that a pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings override the 5th Circuit's rule.

"The court finds that these cases do not support plaintiffs' assertion," the 19-page opinion states. "First, these cases both address the Fifth Circuit's authority to overrule a prior decision. They do not specify what authority a district court has to disregard existing precedent. Second, these cases do not state that a district court can rely on Supreme Court cases that merely imply that a case is overruled, as plaintiffs allege."

O'Connor also dismissed Odle's individual claims with prejudice, finding that rejection of class certification in Dukes removed standing for a plaintiff like Odle to pursue injunctive or declaratory relief.

"Odle was required to file a new lawsuit in order to protect her claims, and her failure to do so within the statute of limitations now bars her claims," he wrote.

O'Connor nevertheless refused to grant Wal-Mart's motions to dismiss or strike class allegations based on the plaintiffs' failure to allege Rule 23's commonality requirement. He also refused to dismiss plaintiffs who have not satisfied the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charge requirement, nor plaintiffs who violated Title VII's particularized venue requirement.

The plaintiffs are represented by Hal Gillespie with Gillespie, Rozen & Watsky; Joseph Sellers with Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll; and Brad Seligman with the Impact Fund.

A spokeswoman for the legal team said they plan to appeal the disappointing decision.

"This ruling in no way reflects on the merits of the gender discrimination case against Wal-Mart," Turner Strategies spokeswoman Pam Avery said in a statement. "The claim was brought to the District Court so that the thousands of Texas region Wal-Mart workers who have been denied equal pay and promotion could one day have their day in court. If the ruling stands, they will be denied that opportunity. We plan to appeal this ruling, which relies heavily on a 25-year-old 5th Circuit Court of Appeals decision, which we believe has been effectively overturned by subsequent U.S. Supreme Court decisions."

Follow @davejourno
Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.