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Wal-Mart faces another lawsuit alleging ethnic discrimination

Last week, we posted that Wal-Mart Inc. recently settled an ethnic discrimination and harassment lawsuit regarding Sam's club workers of Mexican descent who were subjected to racial slurs and harassment from a co-worker. The lawsuit was filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and settled for $440,000.

Because Wal-Mart is the world's largest retailer, employee disputes at any of their stores could have consequences everywhere, including here in Florida. In the wake of this lawsuit, the company now faces another racially-charged lawsuit alleging ethnic discrimination and retaliation.

The lawsuit was again filed by the EEOC, but this time on behalf of three Cuban men who worked at a Wal-Mart warehouse in the Chicago area. The men allege that Wal-Mart paid them lower wages and gave them different work schedules than other non-Cuban employees. They also were not allowed any "make-up" days.

Additionally, the men claim they were fired in November 2006 after complaining to supervisors, who allegedly ignored more than a half-dozen complaints. Before they were fired, each of the men had worked for Wal-Mart for more than five years. If they were indeed fired for reporting discrimination, this constitutes retaliation.

Wal-Mart attempted to have the lawsuit dismissed, but a U.S. district judge recently ruled that the men may pursue a claim under federal civil rights law. That law allows cases which allege discrimination based on ethnic characteristics.

The judge wrote: "Plaintiffs allege they have dark-colored skin, eyes and hair and that they are members of a racial minority, which could give rise to an inference of racial animus."

A spokesman for Wal-Mart maintains that the company has strong policies condemning discrimination. However, this lawsuit and the previously mentioned lawsuit seem to contradict that claim.

Because Wal-Mart is such a large company with so many employees, it could be the case that isolated incidents of discrimination occur in violation of corporate policy. However, a company of any size is responsible for making sure that all its employees are treated fairly and respectfully.

Source: Thomson Reuters Westlaw News, "Cuban workers may press Wal-Mart bias case - court," Jonathan Stempel and Jessica Wohl, 10 May 2011

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