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WAL-MART accused of discriminating against female workers


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's largest private employer, was accused in a federal lawsuit Tuesday of rampant discrimination against female workers.

The lawsuit, which seeks to represent as many as 500,000 current and former women workers, claims the company ``systematically discriminates against its women employees,'' said Brad Seligman, one of several attorneys on the case.

If granted class-action status, the suit would become the nation's largest gender-based discrimination case against a private employer. The plaintiffs are seeking to change the company's alleged discriminatory practices. They have not specified how much money they are seeking.

Wal-Mart, which also operates Sam's Club, employs nearly 1 million people, three-fourths of them women.

``Wal-Mart does not condone discrimination of any kind,'' said Bill Wertz, a spokesman for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer. ``Women hold positions of significant responsibility at Wal-Mart.''

In all, Wertz said, women hold 37 percent of 55,000 management positions.

The suit, filed in San Francisco's U.S. District Court, asserts there are nearly double the number of women in management at competing retail stores and that male Wal-Mart workers get higher pay than women for the same duties. It claims the retailing giant passes over women for promotions and training, and retaliates against women who register complaints.

Micki Miller Earwood, a former personnel manager at an Urbana, Ohio, Wal-Mart, said she recently was fired after complaining about what she said was discriminatory treatment.

``Wal-Mart is not a place I would ever hope for my daughter to work at,'' said Earwood, one of six plaintiffs in the suit.

He also said that Wal-Mart does not count store department managers as management, while other retailers might to inflate their figures.

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