Gender discrimiation is a big deal. Now Wal-Mart is finding out how big a deal it really is. They have been slapped with a multi-billion dollar class action lawsuit according to this article in Time Magazine.

A sharply divided federal appeals court on Monday exposed Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to billions of dollars in legal damages when it ruled a massive class action lawsuit alleging gender discrimination over pay for female workers can go to trial.

In its 6-5 ruling, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals said the world’s largest private employer will have to face charges that it pays women less than men for the same jobs and that female employees receive fewer promotions and have to wait longer for those promotions than male counterparts. (See the top 10 news stories of 2009.)

The retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., has fiercely fought the lawsuit since it was first filed by six women in federal court in San Francisco in 2001, losing two previous rulings in the trial court and again in the appeals court in 2007.

Only time will tell on how the federal courts will rule on this important case.