Inside This Issue - News
High Court nixes class action vs. Walmart
July 11th, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In a momentous ruling expected to have ongoing repercussions, the Supreme Court rejected the class-action sex discrimination lawsuit against Walmart.
The suit, which represented as many as 1.5 million women workers, claimed that the company’s policies and practices resulted in decisions about pay and promotions that were discriminatory by gender.
"Clearly, today’s ruling in the Dukes case has important legal implications, but just as important it pulls the rug out from under the accusations made against Walmart over the last 10 years," Gisel Ruiz, executive vice president of people for Walmart U.S., said in a statement. "Every female associate and every customer can feel even better about the company as a result of today’s decision."
The Supreme Court divided along ideological lines in delivering its 5-4 decision. Five justices, led by Antonin Scalia, who wrote for the majority, held that the suit failed to establish that there were questions of law or fact that were common to the class of plaintiffs.
However, the ruling did not decide whether Walmart had discriminated against the women employees, only that they could not pursue the suit as a class action.
All nine justices agreed that the plaintiff’s lawyers were incorrect in suing under a part of the class-action rules that are not mainly concerned with monetary claims.
The ruling was hailed by business groups and criticized by labor and consumer groups. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce had warned that if allowed to proceed, the case would result in an “avalanche” of class-action suits that would potentially cripple business with a whole range of antitrust, employment and product liability lawsuits.
Observers agree the ruling will make it more difficult to file class-action suits against corporations, and an attorney for the plaintiffs contended the decision reversed 40 years of jurisprudence. A Walmart lawyer said the decision was "an extremely important victory not just for Walmart but for all companies who do business in the United States."