JUDGE: WAL-MART SUIT CLASS-ACTION

SAN FRANCISCO -- Wal-Mart Store's public relations headache reached migraine status last week as a federal judge here cleared the way for the largest gender-discrimination lawsuit against a U.S. company to date, potentially encompassing 1.6 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees.If Wal-Mart loses or settles the case, punitive and lost-wage damages could surpass the $1 billion mark, according

SAN FRANCISCO -- Wal-Mart Store's public relations headache reached migraine status last week as a federal judge here cleared the way for the largest gender-discrimination lawsuit against a U.S. company to date, potentially encompassing 1.6 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees.

If Wal-Mart loses or settles the case, punitive and lost-wage damages could surpass the $1 billion mark, according to the plaintiffs' lawyers and financial analysts.

The response of the

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