Wal-Mart class-action appeal goes to Supreme Court:
The justices decided to review a ruling by a appeals court in California that upheld the class-action certification in the lawsuit alleging discrimination against every woman employed over the past decade at the company's 3,400 U.S. stores. The Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments in the case, which immediately became the most important business dispute before the justices this term, in March, with a ruling likely by the end of June.
The original lawsuit by seven women, filed in 2001, claimed that Wal-Mart paid female workers less than male colleagues and gave them fewer promotions. Wal-Mart denied that it discriminated on the basis of sex. The Court here isn’t deciding whether Wal-Mart discriminated or didn’t; it’s looking at whether the 1.5 million(!) female employees claiming discrimination have similar enough claims to be considered a class for purposes of class action litigation.
How to define a “class” for the purposes of class action suits is key in allowing workers or others claiming harm, whose individual claims may be too small to reasonably pursue, to band together as a single class of people and pool their resources to assert a large, collective claim against an entity.
Essentially, the plaintiffs were certified as a class, and Walmart the appealed such certification to the Supreme Court, stating that the female employees held different jobs in different states under the supervision of different managers. "The class is larger than the active-duty personnel in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard combined -- making it the largest employment class action in history by several orders of magnitude," the company said.
The Supreme Court, with a conservative majority that has often ruled for businesses, in recent years has been highly skeptical of large class-action lawsuits.
It is going to be really interesting to see what happens here. http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE6B531W20101207