Everyone is familiar with the nationwide case of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes (10-277). But most recently, the Supreme Court of the United States has halted the massive job discrimination lawsuit against mega-retailer Wal-Mart Stores Inc., stating that the Plaintiffs had not shown justification for the sweeping class-action status. The Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 5-4. The class action suit could have potentially included hundreds of thousands of current and former female workers from Wal-Mart stores throughout the country.
Justice Antonin Scalia for the majority, the Plaintiffs had to show “significant proof that Wal-Mart operated under a general policy of discrimination. That is entirely absent here.” Further, he added, “In a company of Wal-Mart’s size and geographical scope, it is quite unbelievable that all managers would exercise their discretion in a common way without some common direction.”
The Plaintiffs allege that women were paid less than, and were given fewer opportunities for promotion than, their male counterparts. They sought back pay and punitive damages against the world’s largest retailer. The Supreme Court ruled only on whether the original lawsuit should be handled as a class action, instead of lower courts potentially being flooded with thousands of individual discrimination claims against the company. If the justices had ruled against Wal-Mart, permitting class-action status, it could have put severe pressure on the company to settle the claims out of court.
Plaintiff, Betty Dukes, told CNN she was disappointed, but not altogether discouraged by the ruling and urged other working women not to give up hope. This ruling doesn’t mean the end of the case against Wal-Mart; individual Plaintiffs could file a series of smaller lawsuits aimed at individual stores or supervisors including other Plaintiffs from that particular store.
Wal-Mart, of course, said it was pleased with the court’s decision. “As the majority made clear, the plaintiffs’ claims were worlds away from showing a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy,” said Gisel Ruiz, a company executive vice president. “Wal-Mart has a long history of providing advancement opportunities for our female associates and will continue its efforts to build a robust pipeline of future female leaders.”