Costco law suit continues

Costco Wholesale has lost the latest round in a class action discrimination lawsuit that began in 2004.

The case involves roughly 700 women who say they were passed over for warehouse manager and assistant manager positions because, the lawsuit claims, Costco did not post those jobs, or descriptions of them.

Costco officials had hoped to stop the lawsuit after a class action gender discrimination case against Wal-Mart was thrown out by the US Supreme Court.

The Costco lawsuit was put on hold for three years as the Wal-Mart case worked its way to the US Supreme Court, which in 2011 said there were too many women – as many as 1.5 million – to be in a single class action case.

It also essentially said that employees can pursue class action lawsuits only if a company has a stated policy of paying women or minorities less.

That decision revived the Costco lawsuit in northern California, where US District Court Judge Edward Chen on Tuesday granted plaintiffs’ lawyers the right to move forward with discovery, after which a court date will be set.

The class includes about 700 to 800 current and former female employees who were denied promotions to general manager or assistant manager since 2002.

“We think Costco is a good employer, but they’ve had a blind spot about the process for selecting warehouse managers and assistant managers,” said Jocelyn Larkin of the nonprofit Impact Fund in Berkeley, California, who is lead counsel for the plaintiffs.

“We think it wouldn’t be difficult for them to put in place a system that would be fair for everyone.”

Two things that would help, she said, are posting openings for those positions and providing written criteria of “what it takes to be selected for the job.

It’s nice for people to know this is what I have to do in order to get the job”.

Costco’s chief legal counsel, Joel Benoliel, said in an email: “we have not yet received or reviewed the decision and will have no comment today”.

AAP/MCT

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