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Supreme Court Considers Walmart Class Action Lawsuit

March 30, 2011

DENVER - A Colorado woman is among the original plaintiffs of a massive class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, claiming gender discrimination in the workplace.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Tuesday in the suit, which claims that the company has a pattern of discrimination against women - refusing or delaying promotions in favor of less-qualified men.

Mary Henderson, a former Walmart employee, eventually became an assistant manager at the Colorado store where she worked - but not before seeing men promoted ahead of her.

"Our store manager promoted an unloader over me. I went to him and asked him why, and he said, 'Well, he's got a family to support. You don't.' That was the accepted way things were done."

Henderson joined the class-action suit in 2001 as one of the original plaintiffs. The case has grown to include every woman who worked for the company, about 1.5 million people. That's the problem, according to Wal-Mart. The company argues that it's impossible to prove that every woman experienced similar discrimination.

The high court is expected to decide by June if it is reasonable for the women to sue as a group or if they should pursue individual cases against the company.

The National Association for Female Executives recently named Wal-Mart one of the top 50 companies for executive women, but Henderson believes that even though things have improved it doesn't erase a historical pattern of discrimination.

"I don't think this should ever happen to another woman, period. We don't want preferential treatment. We want equal treatment."

Despite the problems, Henderson calls Wal-Mart a great corporation to work for. She left after 13 years on the job - not because of discrimination but because of health issues. She'll tell her story April 12 in Denver at a rally for equal pay at the state Capitol.

Information on the status of the case is online at walmartclass.com.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO