Steve Malanga of the Manhattan Institute has an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal on last week's certification of a sex discrimination class action against the world's largest retailer. "To read the individual stories of the original plaintiffs of this lawsuit is to get a lesson in how employment law has been degraded to the point where aggrieved employees who have been disappointed in their careers regularly claim discrimination and sue -- based on nothing more than the fact that they have not been promoted." ("Class Action? Third Aisle to the Left", Jun. 29 (subscriber-only); Radley Balko, Jun. 28; AP/Forbes, Jun. 23; AP/Law.com; "A rollback for Wal-Mart" (editorial), Christian Science Monitor, Jun. 25). For views more or less from the plaintiff's side, see David Streitfeld, "Lawyers Take On Wal-Mart", Los Angeles Times/KTLA, Jun. 28 (via Evan Schaeffer); Reed Abelson, "Welcome to Wal-Mart. Please Help Me", New York Times, Jun. 23.
From news accounts, it appears that one element of the plaintiffs' case will be to assert that female Wal-Mart employees are statistically "underrepresented" in higher-paying sections of the store, such as the paint and hardware department. For bias-law buffs, that issue instantly recalls one of the titanic struggles in the history of sex-discrimination law, the EEOC's prolonged courtroom crusade against Sears, Roebuck & Co. A useful introduction to that suit appears on John Rosenberg's Discriminations blog (Oct. 25, 2002, scroll down; see Overlawyered, Oct. 28-29, 2002). Rosenberg, who worked as a consultant on the defense side in the case, points out that: "The percentage of women in various positions at Sears (selling hardware, clothes, appliances, air conditioners, etc.) closely tracked the percentage of women among sole proprietorships in those areas." For extensive discussion of the legal war on Wal-Mart, see Overlawyered, Apr. 13 and links from there.