Sainsbury’s faces legal action from four female shop-floor employees over claims that male employees are being paid more, despite doing comparable work.
If successful, the members of staff may be entitled to six years’ back pay for the difference in earnings.
Three of the employees are working in the Shrewsbury area and one in Fareham, Hampshire.
The preliminary hearing will take place today (10 July) at the Birmingham employment tribunal.
Law firm Leigh Day, which is taking the legal action on behalf of the workers, is arguing that store-based staff, mainly female workers, are of equal value to higher-paid jobs in male-dominated distribution centres.
It also believes that thousands of other female shop floor staff could be eligible to make a pay claim.
In 1989, Sainsbury’s faced a similar case from women working in its Lewisham store in south London.
The first ruling found that even if “one or two minor terms of employment are not common to the two relevant classes of employees” that should not “disable a woman from saying that a given man in a different establishment was ‘in the same employment with her’”.
Michael Newman, solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “This is an important case, given the amount of time equal pay legislation has been in force and the gender pay gap still exists. Sainsbury’s had a judgment against them in the 1980s and they appear not to have learned from that.”
Asda is also currently facing similar legal action over equal pay. A hearing took place in January.