Supreme Court Rules for Wal-Mart in Massive 1.6 Million Female Workers’ Job Discrimination Lawsuit by Denying Class Action Status
Monday the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its decision in Dukes v. Wal-Mart and held 5-4 that 1.6 million female Wal-Mart employees would not be allowed to sue as a class action to pursue a unified claim of systemic gender discrimination based on allegations that they were paid less than their male counterparts and were given fewer opportunities for promotion. The decision was based on the Court’s conclusion that there were too many women with too many different job titles at Wal-Mart to wrap into one lawsuit: Justice Antonin Scalia said in his majority opinion: “[b]ecause respondents provide no convincing proof of a company wide discriminatory pay and promotion policy, we have concluded that they have not established the existence of any common question.” The Supreme Court did not rule on the substance of the claims, only that the female plaintiffs (the largest employee class action in U.S. history) would have to proceed with individual claims.
The importance of the decision in this case is that only a small fraction of the 1.6 million female workers will likely retain counsel to file individual suits and the pressure Wal-Mart may have felt to reach a massive global settlement has been relieved. In general, it also means that similar class actions based on alleged company-wide systemic employment discrimination against an employer will be more difficult to be sustained in the future.
The Schwarzberg & Associates Employment Law and Compliance Team has extensive experience in developing effective policies, procedures and proactive responsive measures to deal with a myriad of workplace issues. Please do not hesitate to contact one of our members; Steve Schwarzberg or Lisa Kohring at (561) 659-3300 to obtain more information about our firm and its various employment law compliance and defense services.