Supreme Court Blocks Largest Discrimination Class Action
Early today the U.S. Supreme Court issued its opinion blocking what would have been the largest employment law class action to date. Wal-Mart, Inc. v. Dukes (2011). In Dukes, approximately 1.6 million current and former female employees were suing for sex discrimination. They claimed that local managers gave preference to men in pay and promotion decisions.
The Court unanimously held that the class action was not properly certified under the federal rules of civil procedure and could not go forward. To sue as a class, the women were required to show that their claims were based on common questions of law or fact. The Court, however, found no general Wal-Mart policy of discrimination. Without that, it said that there was no “glue” holding the reasons for these millions of pay and promotion decisions together. The Court also said that class certification was not proper because the women were seeking different amounts and types of damages. To sue as a class, a single, indivisible remedy must provide relief to all class members.
The women can still pursue individual claims against Wal-Mart; however, there is less money at stake overall and Wal-Mart is under less pressure to settle.