A one-time baker has won a victory against a two-attorney legal team representing the nation’s largest retailer, Walmart Stores.
Dorreatha S. Cornish, a 45-year-old African American from Lincoln, DE, filed a lawsuit against Walmart alleging she was the victim of age and race discrimination because she was never promoted to department manager and was fired in 2012 after failing to pass one of six competencies that she had never been informed were job requirements.
She also alleged Walmart refused to let her work early shifts but allowed younger employees who performed the same job to do so and that white co-workers with similar performance issues were allowed to transfer to other departments instead of being fired.
Walmart attacked the sufficiency of Cornish’s complaint by noting that Cornish, a non-lawyer who could not afford to hire an attorney, failed to assert a proper claim of age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. Cornish’s complaint names only Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which covers race, sex, religion, color and national origin – but not age. Walmart also said Cornish failed to provide sufficient evidence of race discrimination.
U.S. District Court Judge Leonard P. Stark, chief judge for the District of Delaware, acknowledged that Cornish’s “legal theory”was imperfect and that her complaint was inartfully pleaded. However, he said he must “liberally” construe a complaint that is filed by a self-represented litigant.
Though Cornish had already filed one amended complaint in 2014 to clarify her legal claims, Judge Stark gave her leave to file a second amended complaint. Judge Stark also ruled that Cornish provided enough evidence of age and race discrimination to withstand Walmart’s motion for dismissal. He denied Cornish’ request for a court-appointed attorney but indicated he would reconsider the request “upon the filing of a motion with facts supporting the request.”
Cornish had also claimed she was the victim of discrimination because she was single and not married. Stark dismissed that claim.
Walmart was represented by attorney Charles Arthur McCauley, III, of Zarwin Baum De Vito Kaplan Schaer Toddy P.C. and by attorney Ivo Becica.
The case is Cornish v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP, No 1:2013cv01919 (March 11, 2016).