Supreme Court tosses out Wal-Mart class action suit
The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Wal-Mart on legal technicalities and tossed out a class action lawsuit accusing the world’s largest retailer of discriminating against female employees on pay and promotions.
The court unanimously ruled the lawsuit – representing 1.5 million women – did not qualify for class action status because of the broad nature of the claims against Wal-Mart.
“Commonality requires the plaintiff to demonstrate that the class members have suffered the same injury,” wrote Justice Antonin Scalia in the majority opinion. “Without some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together, it will be impossible to say that examination of all the class members’ claims for relief will produce a common answer to the crucial question why was I disfavored.”
The class action suit was brought by three current and former Wal-Mart employees who claimed Wal-Mart “local managers’ discretions over pay and promotion is exercised disproportionately in favor of men, leading to an unlawful disparate impact on female employees.” Christine Kwapnoski, a long-time Sams Club employee, was repeated yelled at and told by her male manager to “doll up, to wear some make-up, and to dress a little better.” Edith Arana, who worked at the Wal-Mart store in Duarte, Calif., was repeatedly “brushed off” by her male manager when she inquired about participating in the company’s management training programs. Betty Dukes was demoted from a customer service manager position to greeter after a series of disciplinary violations, which she said were “retaliation for invoking internal complaint procedures.” Dukes also claimed that the male greeters were paid more than her.
The loss of class action status means the plaintiffs will be forced to bring individual actions against Wal-Mart. For many plaintiffs, the lack of resources could deter them from taking further legal actions or give Wal-Mart a substantial advantage in combatting individual lawsuits.
“Today’s ruling undermines the very purposes of the class action mechanism and is tantamount to closing the courthouse door on millions of women who cannot vindicate their rights one person at a time,” said Marcia D. Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center. “The women of Wal-Mart — and women everywhere — will now face a far steeper road to challenge and correct pay and other forms of discrimination in the workplace.”
- SupremeCourt.gov: Wal-Mart Inc. v Dukes ruling (PDF)
- SCOTUSBlog.com: Wal-Mart vs. Dukes
- SCOTUSBlog.com: Opinion analysis: Wal-Mart’s two messages
- WalmartStores.com: Wal-Mart statements regarding Supreme Court ruling in Dukes case
- National Women’s Law Center: Supreme Court decision in Wal-Mart vs. Dukes
- National Women’s Law Center: Supreme Court places high hurdle for women to overcome pay discrimination
- Making Change at Wal-Mart
- National Organization of Women: Supreme Court to women of Wal-Mart: You’re on your own
The National Women’s Law Center is holding a “Rally in Solidarity with the Women of Wal-Mart” on Tuesday, June 21 between 11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. outside the U.S. Supreme Court (1 First St., NE Washington, D.C.). Click here to RSVP via Facebook or email Melanie Ross Levin at NWLC.
Rallies are also being organized in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco:
For more information, please visit http://makingchangeatwalmart.org/dukes/