A US federal appeals court has thrown out a $20.3 billion civil suit brought by Walmart against a former employee who accused her of sexual harassment, arguing the suit was barred by federal anti-discrimination laws.
The decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld a lower court ruling that Walmart failed to meet its burden to prove the allegations were false.
“The statute’s burden to establish that a claim of discrimination is false does not include a requirement that the claim be ‘beyond a reasonable doubt,'” Judge Thomas Hardiman wrote for a three-judge panel of the appeals court.
In a separate decision Friday, the same panel reversed a lower federal court ruling dismissing a separate lawsuit filed by Walmart in the same court, finding that the claims were not barred by anti-bias laws.
Walmart and other retailers have been facing growing scrutiny for their handling of sexual assault allegations against workers in the past several years, after accusations of widespread abuse at the company’s facilities in India and elsewhere.
A federal judge in Washington, D.C., in December issued a preliminary injunction to halt the sale of nearly 1,000 items by Walmart’s Indian operations in the wake of the recent allegations, which the company has called “completely unfounded.”
Walmart said it had complied with federal law by making changes to the products in its warehouses and in its stores and that the Indian operations were not involved in any sexual harassment.
The U.K.-based retailer said in December that it was ending its Indian operations and would start making its products in the U, where it has a strong domestic presence.
Walmart said in February that it would close all its stores in India, where workers allege they have been mistreated and exploited.