Predictions that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in a case (Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.) could end class action employment lawsuits by employees, appear to have been premature. The landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, siding with the world’s largest retailer, was widely seen as a blow to many other would-be class-action Plaintiffs. But some employment class-action lawsuits, particularly those involving disputes over overtime and other wage-and-hour claims, are surviving and appear to have even been strengthened by the ruling. Judges have issued opinions stating that the Wal-Mart decision does not apply to a given case.
The Wal-Mart case centered on whether a group of up to 1.5 million current and former workers at the retailer, who contended that women were paid less than men and denied promotions, was properly certified as a class. The Supreme Court said the women could not sue jointly, finding they did not have enough in common to band together. Plaintiffs who sue en masse have more power, because they can pool resources and combine claims into one lawsuit. Following the Supreme Court’s June 20 ruling, Wal-Mart workers will now have to sue in smaller groups or as individuals.
Over the past weeks, courts and lawyers have rushed to interpret the ruling. A day after the decision, a federal judge in New York ruled that about 600 employees of Tyco International Ltd unit SimplexGrinnell can sue jointly on their claims that they were underpaid. On June 29, a federal judge in Florida denied Starbucks Corp.’s attempt to decertify a class of more than 700 workers in a lawsuit on overtime pay, saying there were enough similarities to justify keeping class members together. That same week, a federal judge in California denied trucking company C.R. England Inc.’s attempt to decertify a class of up to 1,000 drivers in a wage-and-hour class action. A federal judge in Ohio upheld class certification in a similar case against nursing home company HCR ManorCare.
The Plaintiff classes kept intact or certified so far are small compared with the Wal-Mart group. Neither do their lawsuits involve the same type of sex bias allegations. It’s believed by some experts that the Wal-Mart case will have more of an impact in other nationwide discrimination class actions, including pending cases against Costco Wholesale Corp., Toshiba Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Cigna Corp. and Bayer. We shall see if that is correct.
Source: Insurance Journal
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