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The New York Times reports this morning that Walmart had six years notice that it was vulnerable to gender discrimination suits, and yet apparently did nothing to deal with the situation ... and now faces the biggest gender discrimination class action suit in the nation’s history.

Here’s how the Times tells the story:

“More than six years before the biggest sex discrimination lawsuit in history was filed against Wal-Mart Stores, the company hired a prominent law firm to examine its vulnerability to just such a suit.

“The law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, found widespread gender disparities in pay and promotion at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores and urged the company to take basic steps — like posting every job opening and creating specific goals to promote women and minorities — to avoid liability.

“The 1995 report said that women employed by Wal-Mart earned less than men in numerous job categories, with men in salaried jobs earning 19 percent more than women. By one measure, the law firm found, men were five and a half times as likely as women to be promoted into salaried, management positions.

“Without significant changes, the lawyers said in their confidential analysis, Wal-Mart ‘would find it difficult to fashion a persuasive explanation for disproportionate employment patterns’.”

Walmart has criticized the new release of the 15-year-old report, saying that it is “deeply flawed” and “stale,” and does not represent the reality of how it hires and rewards its employees. The company also has a number of labor experts who are criticizing the law firm’s methodology.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys, however, say that they were not aware of the report but now plan to subpoena it for use in their lawsuit.
KC's View:
I wonder if the “Gump” in the law firm title is any relation to Forrest?

Even a stale report is likely to create problems for Walmart, which just sounds as if it is on the wrong side of history in this case. I cannot imagine that the company wants this to end up in front of a jury...there has got to be a settlement in here somewhere.

(In writing that, I feel like the kid who enthusiastically digs his way through a pile of manure, saying that “there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere...”)

A quick update: An MNB user sent me some links that detailed the accomplishments of Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld...and this is no fly-by-night firm that can be tarred with the brush of having done incomplete or inadequate work by Walmart. In fact, I’d expect that the folks at Akin Gump would be likely to want to testify, if only to protect their own reputations.

Blaming the messenger may not work in this case.