Supreme Court to hear Wal-Mart appeal in gender bias case
Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to decide whether to certify the largest class-action employment discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history, a long-standing dispute involving Wal-Mart Stores and alleged gender bias in pay and promotions.
The case, which dates back to 2001, when six women filed the suit on behalf of current and former Wal-Mart employees, alleging the discounter paid female workers significantly less than their male counterparts and offered them fewer opportunities for advancement. It involves claims that could amount to billions of dollars.
The justices announced Monday they had accepted the Arkansas-based chain’s appeal and will hold oral arguments next spring. A divided 6-5 ruling by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this year had allowed the combined, multiparty litigation to move ahead to one trial, where a verdict against the company could result in billions of dollars in damages.
The court will decide only whether to handle the original lawsuit as a class action, instead of lower courts potentially being flooded with thousands of individual discrimination claims against the company. A potential ruling by the justices against Wal-Mart permitting class action could put severe pressure on the company to settle the claims out of court.
The case, which would be among the biggest of the current term, could establish binding standards over high-stakes liability involving employers large and small.
"We are pleased that the Supreme Court has granted review in this important case,” Wal-Mart said in a statement. “The current confusion in class action law is harmful for everyone — employers, employees, businesses of all types and sizes, and the civil justice system. These are exceedingly important issues that reach far beyond this particular case. We look forward to the Court’s consideration of the appeal."
The lawsuit alleges the company’s "strong, centralized structure fosters or facilitates gender stereotyping and discrimination."
The plaintiffs in the case, who held different jobs in different stores, alleged that Wal-Mart’s corporate culture and employment polices fostered gender stereotyping and led to adverse treatment of women in all of the retailer’s 41 domestic regions.
Tops Friendly Markets renews IT agreement with HP
Palo Alto, Calif. — HP Enterprise Services Monday announced Tops Friendly Markets, the New York-based supermarket chain with stores in New York and Pennsylvania, has signed a seven-year applications and infrastructure technology services contract valued in excess of $80 million that gives the retailer flexibility to transform its business processes to drive growth.
With this agreement, HP will continue to provide a full suite of applications management via a multi-tiered platform, including mainframe, midrange server and web hosting in support of Tops’ business.
“The supermarket segment’s competitive nature requires us to be flexible and instantly meet time-sensitive customers’ dynamic needs as well as compliance requirements,” said Kevin Darrington, COO, Tops Friendly Markets, which operates 127 full-service supermarkets and five franchise locations “HP will help us transform our processes and applications environment so we can stock our shelves with the products customers demand while lowering costs and maintaining our neighborhood grocer feel.”
HP will provide applications management services to maintain the Tops environment, including its retail, supply chain, marketing and merchandising applications. These services help Tops gain control over applications and enable flexibility to adapt to new opportunities.
The agreement also includes a number of infrastructure management services that will simplify the Tops technology environment. HP will continue providing managed mainframe and server management services to host systems that operate Tops’ major retail operations. Tops also will use leveraged services for remote network monitoring and management support from HP.
Rockport taps Demandware for e-commerce platform
Woburn, Mass. — Demandware announced that Rockport has selected Demandware Commerce as its new e-commerce platform.
Replacing its legacy ecommerce solution, Rockport chose Demandware Commerce for its efficient and flexible on-demand model and the ability to gain more control over their overall merchandising and marketing initiatives. New features of the re-launched Rockport.com site will include enhanced customer profiles, trend-driven merchandising, ability to compare selected shoes and send to a friend for help in choosing from multiple styles and product ratings and reviews to name a few.
"Working with a partner who could give us control over our ecommerce initiatives and support our growth strategy was a key factor in our overall decision,” said Peter Shea, head of e-commerce, Rockport, Canton, Mass. "Demandware provides the perfect combination of powerful e-commerce functionality and operational efficiency that will allow us to focus on growing the channel. This implementation will immediately take our e-commerce operations to the next level and enable us to keep up with the increasingly sophisticated demands of today’s consumer.”