In another blow to working people, the U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the huge class-action lawsuit charging sex discrimination at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The ruling, handed down last month, could affect major cases in other industries. The Justices unanimously overturned a U.S. appeals court ruling that more than a million female employees nationwide could join in the lawsuit as a class alleging that Wal-Mart paid women less and gave them fewer promotions. The Supreme Court agreed with Wal-Mart that the class-action certification violated federal rules for such lawsuits. In laymen terms, it was “too big to be a class.”
The Court accepted Wal-Mart’s argument that the female employees in different jobs at 3,400 different stores nationwide and with different supervisors do not have enough in common to be lumped together in a single class-action lawsuit. Clearly, the ruling was a setback for women’s groups, which have said a decision for the company could signal a significant retreat for women’s rights in the workplace.
Although the court rejected the class-action status, the small group of women who brought the lawsuit, such as Betty Dukes, a Wal-Mart greeter at a store in Pittsburg, Calif., still can pursue their individual claims. “The Court’s ruling erects substantially higher barriers for working women and men to vindicate rights to be free from employment discrimination,” the Plaintiffs said in a statement, stressing that the decision does not address whether Wal-Mart committed sex discrimination.
Justice Antonin Scalia concluded for the court majority that the class was not properly certified. “In all, Wal-Mart operates approximately 3,400 stores and employs more than one million people. Because respondents wish to sue about literally millions of employment decisions at once, they need some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together,” the Justice wrote. Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas and Chief Justice John Roberts joined with Justice Scalia in the case. The Court’s other four Justices joined part of the majority opinion, but dissented in another part. The real effect of this decision, other than hurting lots of women, won’t be known immediately.
Source: Insurance Journal
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