Walmart Worker Moves Forward With Sex Bias, Pay Equity Claims

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By Lawrence E. Dubé

Walmart must continue to defend against claims from an Illinois worker who says the retailer denied her promotions and pay raises due to her sex.

Theresa Lishamer’s claims involve only her employment relationship with Walmart, but they follow years of litigation in which women alleged the company discriminated against female employees in pay and promotion. In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed class certification of a lawsuit alleging pay and promotion discrimination affecting as many as 1.5 million female employees. The justices ruled unanimously that lower courts improperly certified the case as a class action, but more lawsuits have continued to challenge the retail giant’s practices.

Walmart says Lishamer’s sex had nothing to do with her assignments and promotions, but Judge Jorge L. Alonso of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois said management comments made to Lishamer that wouldn’t have been directed at male employees were sufficient to put the issue to a jury to decide.

The court also said Lishamer produced evidence that similarly situated men were promoted ahead of her. Walmart identified small differences between Lishamer and the male employees. But “those differences do not demonstrate that the male comparators were plainly more qualified,” the court said.

Lishamer’s allegations of sex bias, brought under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, include a claim she was told early in her employment she wouldn’t be promoted because she wore jeans and a T-shirt to work. Alonso said Lishamer was working on a loading dock at the time, and such comments weren’t directed at male co-workers who were dressed in a similar manner.

Lishamer further claims she was repeatedly denied promotions in favor of males who were no more qualified or experienced, actions she attributes to her sex.

Attorneys for Walmart weren’t authorized to comment on the decision. Lishamer’s counsel didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Nichols Kaster, PLLP in Minneapolis represented Lisahmer. Grant Law LLC in Chicago represented Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

The cse is Lishamer v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2018 BL 31365, N.D. Ill., 15 C 6159, 1/30/18.

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