Wal-Mart to pay nearly $12M in EEOC sex-discrimination case

Louisville Wal-Mart Stores will pay nearly $12 million and change its hiring practices to settle a sex-discrimination suit over hiring at an eastern Kentucky warehouse, the Associated Press reported.

The retailer reached the deal with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Monday, when a trial was set to open in a nine-year-old lawsuit alleging Wal-Mart illegally based hiring decisions on gender, bypassing women for jobs at its London regional distribution center. The EEOC announced the agreement late Monday.

The EEOC filed a class-action suit against Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart in 2001, alleging it hired 18 to 25-year-old men instead of women for jobs in the warehouse and routinely told applicants that order-filling positions were not suitable for women.

Wal-Mart denied the charges. The settlement, approved by U.S. District Judge Karen Caldwell on Monday, covers all hires at the London warehouse between 1998 and 2005.

Wal-Mart, in a written statement, confirmed the settlement and said it will not result in any change to the company's operating results in the first quarter of fiscal 2011, which started Feb. 1.

The $12 million payment will be split among a yet-to-be determined number of claimants, who will receive $8.4 million in back pay, with another $3.2 million in compensatory damages. The EEOC will determine which claimants receive back pay and which will get compensatory damages.

Anyone receiving $100,000 or more will not be eligible for hire under the settlement terms. Wal-Mart will also pay $250,000 in administration costs related to the settlement.

Along with the back pay and damages, as part of the settlement Wal-Mart will fill the first 50 order-filler jobs at the warehouse with female hires. After that, female hires will make up a fixed percentage of open positions.

Under the terms of the settlement, Wal-Mart will receive a list of eligible applicants from the EEOC and will then fill jobs as they become available.