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Wal-Mart (Stock Quote: WMT) is known for having record low prices, but they are about to set another benchmark. The company is now the target of the biggest employment discrimination case America has ever seen.

Six women filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart back in 2001, but the company fought vigorously to stop the class action suit from going through. Now, nearly a decade later, a federal appeals court in San Francisco has ruled the Wal-Mart case can finally go to trial.

To make matters worse for Wal-Mart, the court ruled that this class action lawsuit can include the claims of any woman who has worked at a Wal-Mart since 2001. Some have estimated this could amount to 1.5 million former employees, though Wal-Mart claims the number is closer to 500,000. Either way, Wal-Mart is at risk of losing billions and billions of dollars.

According to The New York Times, “The lawsuit… accuses the retailer of systematically paying women less than men, giving them smaller raises and offering women fewer opportunities for promotion. The plaintiffs stressed that while 65 percent of Wal-Mart’s hourly employees were women, only 33 percent of the company’s managers were.”

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Not surprisingly, Wal-Mart has contested these discrimination claims all along, claiming they are “an excellent place for women to work,” but this court decision will likely prove a kick in their gut, and can only bring them bad press. As Reuters notes, “The lawsuit's reemergence follows years of work by Wal-Mart to improve its image, from efforts to become more eco-friendly to mobilizing resources for disaster relief.” It looks like this is going to be another tough year for Wal-Mart.

If you’ve ever wondered what a world without Wal-Mart would look like, check out this MainStreet article.

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