Federal Judge Grants Class-action Status in Wal-Mart Discrimination Case

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Federal Judge Grants Class-action Status in Wal-Mart Discrimination Case

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart is being sued for alleged discrimination again. A federal judge has granted class action status in a lawsuit accusing the world's largest retailer of discriminating against blacks who've applied for over-the-road trucking jobs.

The suit argues that many of Wal-Mart's screening committees, which are used to hire drivers, do not include black members, even though the company has a policy requiring that the committees be 50 percent diverse.

According to the plaintiffs' attorney, about 15 percent of over-the-road truckers nationwide are black, but the only 4 percent to 6 percent of Wal-Mart drivers are black.

The class action includes all blacks who have been denied driving jobs with Wal-Mart since Sept. 22, 2001, plus any black drivers who wanted to apply, but were "deterred or thwarted," because of the company's hiring practices.

The plaintiffs' attorney estimates the class at less than 10,000 people.

Wal-Mart spokesman is considering appealing the class action designation, according to published reports.

In other Wal-Mart news, the retailer has agreed to pay $750,000 to the family of a suspected shoplifter who suffocated in August 2005 when a Wal-Mart employee chased him out of a store in Atascocita, Texas and sat on him in the store's parking lot.

The suspect was believed to have exchanged stolen goods for $94 worth of store credit on a gift certificate. A loss-prevention employee at the store chased the suspect and sat on him as he lay facedown on the parking lot, which an examination found to have caused his death.

When the suspect died, he was on probation for a similar gift-card scam at a Polk County Wal-Mart, and he had signed an agreement to never enter another of the chain's stores, according to published reports. An autopsy showed he had methamphetamine in his system when he died, and listed overheating with methamphetamine toxicity as a contributing factor in his death.