Sunday, March 29, 2009

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Files Brief In Wal-Mart Gender Discrimination Suit

On Friday, March 13th, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund, Inc. (LDF) filed a friend of the court brief supporting the plaintiffs in a historic, nationwide sex-discrimination lawsuit filed against Wal-Mart Stores. The lawsuit, Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., was originally filed in 2001 on behalf of a class of approximately 2 million women affected by Wal-Mart's discriminatory employment practices, making it one of the largest civil rights class action lawsuits in history. The case is currently being reheard en banc by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

A federal district court certified the lawsuit as a class-action in 2004, and the original panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed in 2007. Last month, the Ninth Circuit agreed to rehear the case before a group of eleven judges, with oral argument set for late March. Wal-Mart has asked the Ninth Circuit to hold that victims of employment discrimination can only sue as a class if they give up their right to monetary damages, and instead seek only injunctive and declaratory relief.

LDF argued in its friend-of-the-court brief that accepting Wal-Mart's position is not only bad policy, but also would be a radical rewriting of civil rights law. "When Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the clear intent was to expand protections against workplace discrimination by extending the remedies available to victims of intentional discrimination to include money damages. Wal-Mart is attempting to undermine those protections," said John Payton, LDF President and Director-Counsel.

LDF was joined on the brief by a broad coalition of civil rights non-profits, including the Asian American Justice Center, Latino Justice, PRLDEF, Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Legal Momentum, NAACP, National Partnership for Women & Families, National Women's Law Center, and Women Employed.

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