The nearly ten-year legal battle over the class action lawsuit alleging sex discrimination at Wal-Mart stores is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Wal-Mart is challenging the class certification of more than 1 million female former and current workers. The giant retailer challenges the certification and the claims for monetary damages, saying they violate due process and federal rules of civil procedure. The class certified by the district court was estimated to include over 1.5 million former and current female Wal-Mart employees who held different jobs in different stores in different states under the supervision of different managers. This is the largest employment class action in history.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in April in favor of class certification, agreeing with the district court that “it would be better to handle some parts of this case as a class action instead of clogging the federal courts with innumerable individual suits litigating the same issues repeatedly.”
The Plaintiffs claim that the retail chain, with more than 3,400 U.S. stores and a million employees, has paid women less than men and gives promotions to women less frequently than men, and that the women are similarly situated enough to form a class. Joseph Sellers, a Cohen Millstein Sellers & Toll lawyer, who is part of the team representing the proposed class of Wal-Mart employees, says that Wal-Mart has taken “the kitchen sink approach to challenging the pursuit of civil rights class actions.” Some of the issues raised, he said, including whether punitive damages are allowed, are premature. Hopefully, the Court will deny review and send the case back for trial.
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