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Discovery Pause in Wal-Mart Gender Bias Suit Could Delay Case

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge's ruling that discovery in the sex discrimination suit against Wal-Mart Stores will pause until an appeal of the class certification is resolved could put off resolution of the case for months, according to the plaintiffs' lead attorney.

Before the latest ruling, which occurred on Monday, the plaintiffs had begun the process of requesting documents from Wal-Mart related to the case. The likely effect of the ruling will be to delay resolution of the case by about six to nine months, Berkeley, Calif.-based lead plaintiffs' attorney Brad Seligman told Progressive Grocer. "I think we have a very strong case," Seligman was quick to add, however, dismissing any speculation that the delay, or a ruling against class-action certification, could be detrimental to the plaintiffs. "People have the right to appeal, but I'm quite confident that we'll come back and Wal-Mart's going to have to face the music."

In June U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins ruled that a suit charging that Wal-Mart pays and promotes women inequitably could proceed as a class action. The class covers about 1.6 million current and former female Wal-Mart workers employed at American stores since Dec. 26, 1998.

Wal-Mart denies the discrimination allegations and argued on appeal that the class size was so big that it made the case unwieldy. Last month the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to review the lower-court judge's decision to grant class-action status to the suit.
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