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BREAKING: SCOTUS Sides With Wal-Mart in Class Action Case

BREAKING: SCOTUS Sides With Wal-Mart in Class Action Case

Siding with the retail giant Wal-Mart, the Supreme Court ruled that the nation’s largest job discrimination lawsuit cannot move forward as a class-action.  It’s a crushing defeat for civil rights advocates and firmly grounds the Roberts Court as one of the most corporate-friendly courts in our nation’s history.

Make no mistake about it, the ramifications of the decision are enormous.  The plaintiffs in the case have accused Wal-Mart of systematically discriminating against women in hiring, pay and promotions.  Wal-Mart did not defeat the substance of the claims–that is, it is still an open question as to whether or not the discrimination occurred.  Rather, Wal-Mart defeated the move to have the millions of potential victims bind their claims together against the retailer.

So where does this leave us?

The plaintiffs in the case lost because the Roberts Court did not feel there was enough in common with each of the plaintiffs and their claims to meet the requirements under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to warrant class action status.  That means each individual plaintiff will now have to move forward individually with their claims against Wal-Mart.  This is an expensive proposition for an hourly employee, particularly when, segregated out, each individual claim may amount to a small amount in damages for each individual plaintiff.  Those women will now have to weigh whether the time and expense of pursuing these claims is worth it and will have to find an attorney willing to take on the retail giant for little if any potential reward.

The decision also sends a not-so-subtle nod to massive employers like Wal-Mart that systematic discrimination will not be punished so long as that employer can sufficiently diffuse its policies under the guise of “managerial discretion”.  It also takes away the threat of large damages claims via the class action which is the only real mode of justice lower wage workers have to challenge unlawful discriminatory actions.

In response to the ruling, Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center issued the following statement:

“Today, in a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court issued a devastating decision undoing the rights of millions of women across the country to come together and hold their employers accountable for their discriminatory practices.  The Court has told employers that they can rest easy, knowing that the bigger and more powerful they are, the less likely their employees will be able to join together to secure their rights.   The women at Wal-Mart—together with women everywhere—will now face a far steeper road to challenge and correct pay and other forms of discrimination in the workplace.”

For more on coverage of the decision, click here.

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photo courtesy of monochrome via Flickr

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39 comments

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8:55AM PST on Dec 6, 2011

The only thing good about Wal-Mart is the riding carts if your disabled!

8:25PM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

The Supreme Court that Bush put in place was so corrupt and lop-sided to the side of the rich and elite and mega corps. I could see it on Roberts face the day Bush picked him. That sneaky underhanded grin, I wanted to reach through the TV screen and rip his face off. He has lived up to his evil aura that permeated through the airwaves even then.

I worked with a woman long ago cleaning a bank at nights. Years later she ended up working at Walmarts fabric dept. I ran into her while looking for native design fabric She told me some of the horror stories of how Walmart treated their employees in the early 90's when they started to invade the area. They even searched their employees before they went home at the end of their shift to make certain they were not stealing from the store. If the management thought their employees had to steal from the store, why didn't they pay them a living wage then?

I rarely shop Walmart. In my area some of the workers they hire are totally indifferent to customers and tend to ignore them or say they cannot help the customer, usually younger workers so I was put off by their attitude and took my business elsewhere. There are a lot of good employees there also and I feel bad that they are not getting a fair shake.

And Walmart is not the cheapest on prices. i.e: My mother wanted something from there and in 4 months this year the price went up 48%. I used to buy my non-dairy coffee creamer from them as it cost the lowest at $2.23, I could bu

3:26PM PDT on Jun 23, 2011

For those of you who can't quite grasp the reality of the decision, this is an excerpt from an article by Jami Floyd. She will be live on Friday if you want to hear her discussion on this topic.


"While the underlying merits of the Wal-Mart case are about systematic discrimination against women in all stores across the U.S., the Supreme Court’s unanimous decision Monday was procedural. The ruling went to the narrow question of whether 1.6 million women had a sufficiently common interest to proceed as a class – which a majority ruled they did not. Just too big."

"Because the justices agreed unanimously that the Wal-Mart women could not proceed as a class, they never had to address the underlying question: Did Wal-Mart engage in a pattern and practice of discrimination?"

12:02PM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

It's a cop-out to say you HAVE to shop at wal-mart because you can't afford to shop anywhere else!! Make the extra effort to go to more than one place to get what you need. Shop at discount grocery stores. Keep track of what's on sale at the drugstore, and buy what you need when it's on sale. Clip coupons. Shop at farmers markets. These are only a few of the things you can do to AVOID WAL-MART!!

10:27AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

Women won't be stopped and Walmart shouldn't start to get to comfortable. Women are strong, determined, smart and won't let this pass over. Women before us fought till we got the vote and we'll continue to fight for our rights no matter what it is.

8:37AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

And you expected a different decision from SCOTUS? This decision with regards to class action suits will affect every large company (GE et al) which have been subject to large class action suits in the past. Looks like those days are over. The plaintiffs can now sue only individually. How many can afford their lawyers?

7:20AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

Why do so many people buy at Walmart? Walmart destroys American small businesses, discriminates in its hiring and advancement procedures, does not support American made products...and so on. It's been hard for me to get angry at Walmart, though, because people are dumb enough to keep buying their products. We are supporting, literally, a huge corporation who does not support its customers. The pricing on certain items is less, but is that small savings worth driving American businesses bankrupt and treating employees as a commodity? Why are so many people willing to be treated as cattle in order to save a coupla dollars?

6:26AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

Wal Mart has been trying to get into New York for years. I hope they never sign a lease in the city. We have enough hungry power players and dishonest business people.
As for the court decision, it has logic to it.

6:03AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

A lot of spouting but not much sense. NONE of the justices thought the suit qualified as a class action in its present form. I don't like the recent rulings of this court either, but accuracy is a little better than irrational remarks about the results.

5:48AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

I believe SCOTUS is corrupt and expected no decision other than the one handed down.

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