Supreme Court To Hear Walmart Gender Discrimination Suit

Given that Walmart is the country’s largest private employer it’s not terribly surprising that the U.S. Supreme Court has decided to have a look at the sex discrimination lawsuit filed against the retailer — the largest class-action suit of its kind in U.S. history.

The lawsuit began as a claim by a small group of female Walmart staffers. It was granted class-action status in April by a California appeals court, expanding the potential plaintiff base to upward of 1.5 million current and former female Walmart employees.

Walmart will be arguing before the Supremes that the claims by the various plaintiffs are too diverse to proceed as a unified class-action.

“The current confusion in class-action law is harmful for everyone — employers, employees, businesses of all types and sizes and the civil justice system. These are exceedingly important issues that reach far beyond this particular case,” reads a statement from the retail giant.

Walmart pointed out in its appeal to the Supreme Court that the potential plaintiff base for this case “is larger than the active-duty personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard combined.”

On the flip side, lawyers for the original plaintiffs in the case says that the retail chain is painting itself as an entity that “is too big to be held accountable… The class is large because Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest employer and manages its operations and employment practices in a highly uniform and centralized manner.”

The arguments won’t likely be heard until March and a ruling is expected on the matter in June. The court will not be deciding on the merits of the gender discrimination claims, but on whether or not the lawsuit warrants its class-action certification.

Wal-Mart class-action appeal goes to Supreme Court [Reuters]

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  1. dolemite says:

    First, it was “too big to fail”. Now it’s “too big to be sued”.

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Walmart will be arguing before the Supremes

    I knew Diana Ross had something to say about this.

  3. Bsamm09 says:

    Of course the lawyers want the class action to be huge and not break it up. They get more money and the workers will get very little.

    • nova3930 says:

      “If you opt-in to the class, you’ll receive a $5 Wal-mart gift card. In addition, the judge overseeing the settlement has approved attorney’s fees in the amount of $2,487,397,421.37 that will be paid out of the settlement fund.”

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Actually, it behooves the plaintiffs to seek class-action status, assuming the case has a strong chance of succeeding. If nothing else, a win or a buy-out by Walmart sets a nation-wide precedent, instead of a patch-work of wins and losses by the plaintiffs.

    • mythago says:

      Huh? If they ‘break it up’ then the cases go individually and clog up the court system. The lawyers still make money.

      • RickN says:

        The class stays together then these specific lawyers make a gazillion dollars.

        The class breaks apart, then bunches of lawyers all across the country will have individual cases and make money. This does not benefit these specific gazillion-dollar-seeking lawyers

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          These lawyers have also already piled up hundreds of billable hours. Hours they could have spent on other cases. So they may have a large check at the end, but that constitutes a much longer time period than a traditional case. Pay commensurate with the time spent on it. Please show me the graph that shows lawyers make more per worked hour on class action cases than traditional cases.

  4. Tim says:

    If Walmart didn’t want such a big class action, maybe they shouldn’t have discriminated against so many people …

  5. ldub says:

    Let’s see, what are the odds that the Robert’s court – which has yet to meet a corporation it did not like – will side with the plaintiffs???

    • RickN says:

      A quick review of 2009 and 2010 opinions shows me that you are speaking without actually looking at the facts. 2 of the first 5 cases I reviewed were against companies and for individuals. I stopped looking at that point.

      According to you, these cases do not exist and I’ve reading a Supreme Court website form another dimension or something. “A dimension of sight and sound…”

      • ldub says:

        I never said that they never, ever decided for an individual. That doesn’t preclude being pro-corporation as evidenced by their decision to grant corporations personhood with regards to campaign donations.

      • mythago says:

        2 of the first 5 cases I reviewed were against companies and for individuals. I stopped looking at that point.

        What’s funny is that you were probably quite serious.

  6. GameHen says:

    It’ll be interesting to see what comes of the case. I can see their argument against a class action civil suit of this nature given that some of the employment actions were taken because of bonafide poor employee behavior or employee x truly being more quailfied than protect class employee y in a specific instance.

    Regardless of how this turns out though, I seriously doubt a Supreme Court finding in favor of Walmart on this particular case will have any impact at all should the EEOC or OFCCP decide to fine them for Adverse Impact under Title VII. That isn’t a class action civil suit, there is no “trial” (just an audit) and fines can still grant thousands of dollars of payments to the impacted individuals.

  7. Draw2much says:

    My friend works in the oil change section of her Walmart. She’s the only girl doing “grunt work” in that section. She would get harassed by her coworkers, but management never tolerated it and would do what they could when it was brought to their attention. And this is in Mississippi.

    However, she started working at Walmart after this whole suing over discrimination thing started. The way management is handling it now might be a result of the lawsuit. I’m not sure.

  8. runswithscissors says:

    If women employees don’t want to be treated unfairly then they shouldn’t have ovaries. “I have no sympathy at all.” (TM, Consumerist OP Blamers)

    / yes, it’s sarcasm.

  9. cortana says:

    The supremes will probably toss it back down to a lower court to be heard, rather than hear it at the supreme court. That’s their usual MO.

  10. Extended-Warranty says:

    This lawsuit is a complete joke. How are they going to prove that the company advocates discriminating against women? This is basically trying to say it was company policy. Hell, at the local store by me, the district manager is a female. Did she squeak by while every other female applicant was discriminated against?

    Ok let’s say they can somehow prove anything, were 1.5 million women discriminated against? Every idiot who couldn’t handle the ranks of being a manager is going to sign on here.

    Also there’s the fact that women don’t even like women management http://www.forbes.com/2010/04/23/management-issues-workplace-forbes-woman-views-worst-bosses.html

    • mythago says:

      Oooh, you were doing so well until that last paragraph, when you slid from ‘concern trolling’ to out-and-out trolling. Try again under another name!

  11. Dont lump me into your 99%! says:

    If you dont want to be discriminated against, be a white male, and stop complaining. Its not OUR fault you are not a white male….maybe you need a few surgeries…

    I dont think that qualifies as blame the op, as the op is the writer and not part of the lawsuit.

    • TasteyCat says:

      White males are discriminated against by people who want to be given opportunities and/or perks they are not qualified for and/or do not deserve.

      • speedwell (propagandist and secular snarkist) says:

        And deserving members of groups who are not white (=Anglo-Saxon) and male (=conventionally masculine) are discriminated against by anyone whose idea of a top-notch employee contains, consciously or subconsciously, the image of a typical white man. So what? I think that if you investigate, you’ll find instances of race and sex discrimination in favor of typical white men to be far more pervasive and damaging than the reverse.

        Although I definitely agree that there are many cases where prejudice against white men is inexcusable (knee-jerk custody rulings in many divorce cases, for example), when you restrict your scope to employment, especially at the upper echelons, it’s a whitewashed “boy’s club” all the way.

        I work in an IT department for engineers, by the way. I’m a software trainer and database administrator. As a Jewish woman I have really met with few obstacles in either IT or engineering. But they have been there, and they have been significant, and they have been pointless. My father didn’t need to tell me, when I was in high school considering a college major, that “girls don’t become engineers unless they’re bitches.” My boss, who in all other ways is an excellent supervisor and person, did not need to bar me (initially) from business trips to the Middle East on the dubious grounds that “they won’t accept you” (it turned out they did, and my trip was a roaring success). I had to get into the position I have now by insisting I was already doing the work, and that my former title of “administrative assistant” was a travesty. And my case is a comparatively successful one. I have friends who are female engineers, and friends who are male engineers, and I see how the male engineers treat the male and female engineers. There’s still quite a bit of work to be done, both here and abroad.