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Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2007 02:10 am

Wal-Mart women fight back

Retailer is the target of the largest sex-discrimination case in history

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Untitled Document Get ready for another touchy-feely Wal-Mart ad to saturate the airwaves soon. Whenever this retailing behemoth gets caught in one of its many abusive practices, it races to cover up the damage with a PR blitz. This time, though, Wal-Mart’s image has hit not merely a pothole on the road of greed but a sinkhole — and it’s going to take more than ads for them to get out of it. A federal appeals court has ruled that a sex-discrimination suit filed back in 2001 by six women is entitled to class-action status, bringing some 2 million more former and current employees into the case. So Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, now has the distinction of facing the largest sex-discrimination suit in U.S. history. As the court put it: “Expert opinions, factual evidence,   statistical evidence, and anecdotal evidence present significant proof of a       corporate policy of discrimination [against] female employees nationwide.”   The facts are damning. For example, 65 percent of Wal-Mart’s employees are women, but only 16 percent of its store managers are. Bizarrely, the corporation tried to lay the blame for holding back women on individual store managers, claiming that Wal-Mart did not operate as a centralized unit. Now, that’s a scream, because this giant constantly brags that its central computers keep track of every penny that comes in and goes out of its   global empire in addition to tracking the performance of every employee. Workers can’t pee without headquarters knowing how long it took! Of course, rather than do right by the women it has routinely wronged, Wal-Mart will continue to unleash its bevy of lawyers to drag out the case,  hoping that women will be discouraged and quit. But I don’t think these ladies are quitters. It’s already been six years — and justice is drawing closer.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist, and author.
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