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Women Claiming Gender Bias At Walmart Denied Class Action Status

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SAN FRANCISCO -- A judge rejected on Friday an attempt to file a class action discrimination lawsuit on behalf of 150,000 Wal-Mart women employees in California who claimed their male colleagues were paid more and promoted faster than them.

The lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court was a scaled-down version of an initial complaint filed in 2001 that sought to represent 1.6 million women nationwide. But the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out that class action lawsuit in 2011, ruling it found no convincing proof of companywide discrimination on pay and promotion policy. The court also said there were too many women in too many jobs at Wal-Mart to wrap into one lawsuit.

After that setback, the women's lawyers filed smaller class action lawsuits, alleging discrimination occurred in different states and Wal-Mart "regions."

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ruled the smaller suit on behalf of California women employees was still too disparate and wide ranging to qualify as a class action lawsuit. He also found that the lawyers failed to show statistical and anecdotal evidence of gender bias.

"Though plaintiffs insist that they have presented an entirely different case from the one the Supreme Court rejected, it is essentially a scaled-down version of the same case with new labels on old arguments," Breyer wrote.

The ruling does not consider whether the women were victims of discrimination and allows their individual claims to proceed in litigation.

Plaintiffs' attorney Randy Renick said he planned to appeal Breyer's ruling.

"We are deeply disappointed in the court's decision regarding what we remain convinced is a strong class action case against Wal-Mart for wide scale gender discrimination," he said in a statement.

Wal-Mart said it was pleased with the ruling.

"We've said all along that if someone believes they have been treated unfairly, they deserve to have their timely, individual claims heard in court," the Bentonville, Ark.-based company said in a statement.

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