Wal-Mart's whopper of a sex discrimination suit

Plus, involuntary sterilization of women in Slovakia.

Published February 6, 2007 10:25PM (EST)

Wal-Mart -- the world's largest private employer -- "must face a class-action lawsuit alleging female employees were discriminated against in pay and promotions," exposing the company to "the possibility of billions of dollars of damages," the Associated Press reports.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld a federal judge's 2004 decision to let the lawsuit against Wal-Mart continue, which alleges that "as many as 1.5 million current and former female employees earned less than men and were bypassed for promotions," according to the AP.

Wal-Mart had tried to argue that the company itself had no policy of gender discrimination and that since its 3,400 stores operate like independent businesses, the case should not qualify for class-action status. But the court, presided over by U.S. District Judge Martin Jenkins, disagreed. And so the nation's largest-ever gender discrimination lawsuit shall continue.

In other legal news: The maternal side of my family is from Slovakia, so I'm sad to report that my ancestral home does things like, you know, sterilize women without their consent to try to contain the country's Roma population. What's more, it ignores them when they complain.

A Slovakian court just awarded $1,865 each in damages to four Roma women -- often referred to as "gypsies" -- who tried to file complaints against their illegal sterilization in the Kosice prosecutors' office but were ignored. The court ruled that the women's human rights were violated when the prosecutors didn't act on their complaints. The whole "involuntary sterilization" issue is still pending in the courts and taps into something much bigger: According to UPI, in 2004 "the European Roma Rights Center in Budapest published allegations [that] the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria were 'solving problems' of the Gypsy minority through forced sterilization."

By Catherine Price

Catherine Price is an award-winning journalist and author of Vitamania: How Vitamins Revolutionized the Way We Think About Food. Her written and multimedia work has appeared in publications including The Best American Science Writing, The New York Times, Popular Science, O: The Oprah Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post Magazine, Salon, Slate, Men’s Journal, Mother Jones, PARADE, Health Magazine, and Outside. Price lives in Philadelphia.

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