The Supreme Court has unanimously ruled that a group representing as many as 1.5 million women cannot proceed with a class action sex discrimination lawsuit against Walmart. The decision, which overturns an earlier ruling in favor of the class action, means the women will have to file individual claims against Walmart.
While the Court was divided on other issues at stake in the case, including the level of “common elements” required to bring a class-action suit against an employer, the Justices were united in their decision that this case wasn’t eligible for class-action status:
The workers “provide no convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the court.
The court ruled unanimously on some aspects of the case and divided on others. Four justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — said they would have returned the case to a lower court and let the workers try to press ahead with a class action under a different legal theory.
“The court, however, disqualifies the class from the starting gate,” Ginsburg wrote.
The suit, which was initially filed 10 years ago, sought to include every female employee hired by Walmart and Sams Club since 1998, including those hired after the case was filed. The plaintiffs said that Walmart’s corporate culture was rife with gender stereotypes and its practice of allowing local managers to make subjective decisions about salaries and promotions led to rampant discrimination. A wide range of companies, including Microsoft, Bank of America and General Electric, supported Walmart in the case, which could have cost the retailer billions of dollars in back pay.
Wal-Mart Wins Supreme Court Gender-Bias Case [Bloomberg]