Supreme Court overturns class action standard in Walmart v Dukes

“Women make up over 65 percent of hourly employees at Wal-Mart, and only 34.5 percent of managers. In other words, Wal-Mart – like so many of America’s biggest businesses – has a gender and leadership problem.”  But that’s now how 5-4 on the male-dominated Supreme Court sees it, saying the class size was too big. ~Ed.

Wall Street Journal writes:

The Supreme Court put the brakes on a massive job discrimination lawsuit against mega-retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., saying sweeping class-action status that could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of current and former female workers was simply too large.

The ruling Monday was a big victory for the nation’s largest private employer, and the business community at large.

The high-profile case– perhaps the most closely watched of the high court’s term– is among the most important dealing with corporate versus worker rights that the justices have ever heard, and could eventually impact nearly every private employer, large and small.


Christian Science Monitor writes:

In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the Supreme Court set a dangerous precedent when it ruled that the women in the class action suit could not prove a common culture of sex discrimination. But sexism is no longer written in official policy. It’s engrained in culture.

The Supreme Court’s ruling in favor of “the world’s biggest boss,” as GritTV’s Laura Flanders put it, in the Wal-Mart v. Dukes sex discrimination class action lawsuit this week is a major blow to working women across America. And perhaps even more important, it’s a sign that some of the esteemed judges on our nation’s highest court need a primer in how contemporary discrimination functions.

The court decided 5-4 that up to 1.5 million former and current female employees couldn’t file suit against Wal-Mart together as a class because there was scant evidence of institutionally sanctioned or organized discrimination by the company. But women make up over 65 percent of hourly employees at Wal-Mart, and only 34.5 percent of managers. In other words, Wal-Mart – like so many of America’s biggest businesses – has a gender and leadership problem.


Refuting claims that the class size was too large, Urban Politico explains:

There’s a civil procedure in the law that you have probably heard before on TV called a “Class Action.” To the lawyers who practice in federal courts, it’s known as Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The entire purpose of Rule 23 is efficiency. A long time ago, the Judiciary and Congress figured out that if 100 people had a complaint about the same issue with the same defendant, then it just made sense to allow all 100 people to join in on the same law suit instead of having 100 separate law suits before 100 different judges wasting tax payer dollars in 100 different cases that could have been combined into 1 single case. Having 100 different cases about the same thing would obviously be inefficient. Combining all of those cases into just 1 case is, of course, a more efficient use of the court’s time and of tax payer dollars.

That’s the basic principle behind Rule 23.

And because the recognized goal is efficiency, the criteria that plaintiffs must meet in order to qualify as a Class Action case under Rule 23 is a pretty low bar. In a nutshell, the plaintiffs merely need to have a lot in common in terms of (i) what they are suing about and (ii) who they are suing. If those things match, then congratulations – you can bring a Class Action law suit under Rule 23. At least that’s how it used to be until the Supreme Court decided to literally change the rules in yesterday’s case Wal-Mart v. Dukes….

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by the Court’s progressive voting block (J. Breyer, J. Sotomayor and J. Kagan), wrote a separate opinion dissenting in part and concurring in part…. She argued that Scalia’s case-by-case basis approach to employment discrimination cases “leads the Court to train its attention on what distinguishes individual class members, rather than on what unites them.” In other words, it defeats the entire purpose of Rule 23 Class Action law suits.

Related: Questions for The Money Party: Why Negative Job Growth Since 2000?

One response to “Supreme Court overturns class action standard in Walmart v Dukes

  1. Frankly this Court, like the Rhenquist Court, has an extreme far right pro-corporate agenda. It is political to an extreme. Don’t mourn, organize.

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