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Judge Grants Class-Action in Costco Discrimination Case

A federal judge has granted class-action status to a lawsuit accusing Costco Wholesale of denying promotions to women.

Under the order from U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel, the class will include women who have been denied promotions to certain senior staff or management positions at Costco since Jan. 3, 2002. Former employees also are included.

The named plaintiffs - Shirley Rae Ellis, Leah Horstman and Elaine Sasaki - worked at Costco warehouses in Colorado and California. They claim the company was quicker to promote less-qualified men and refused to give proper notice of advancement opportunities.

Ellis, who had worked as a Costco assistant manager since 1998, also alleges the company retaliated against her initial complaint to federal regulators, including a "disadvantageous warehouse transfer."

The plaintiffs are seeking monetary damages, including back pay. They also want Costco to change its job posting practices and institute an affirmative action policy for women.

Costco has denied the claims. Its lawyers referred requests for comment to the company, but officials did not immediately return phone messages from The Associated Press on Thursday.

Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco, the nation's largest wholesale club operator, employs more than 78,000 full- and part-time workers at its U.S. stores.

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