A woman who lost her role as Santa Claus at Wal-Mart when a customer complained it was a man's job is seeking $67,000 from the nation's biggest retailer for lost wages and pain and suffering.

The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights heard arguments today in the sex discrimination complaint of Marta Brown against Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

"Mrs. Brown proved she could play the role of Santa, but she was rejected based on her female status," said her attorney, Alteata McWilliams. "Mrs. Brown was totally humiliated."

Wal-Mart stands by its decision to replace Brown based on her sex, company spokesman Mike Maher said from Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

"The bottom line is we do believe Santa Claus is a man; he has always been portrayed as a man," Maher said.

Brown, 46, had volunteered in December 1995 to play Santa at the store where she worked in the western Kentucky town of Morganfield.

She was replaced after her first day when a child pinched her breast and complained to his mother that Santa was a woman. The mother complained to store managers.

Wal-Mart attorney Kathryn Quesenberry said the company feared that Christmas sales, which account for half of the Morganfield store's annual revenue, would suffer if children didn't beg their parents to take them there to see Santa.

Brown disagreed.

"Little kids just like Santa Claus," she said. "They don't care if Santa is a man, woman or donkey."