Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Breaking News: Largest-Ever Pay Discrimination Suit Against Wal-Mart Closer to Trial

Walmart_1_13 Thanks to Steven Sholk for directing me to this important new decision by the Ninth Circuit just out, which allows a pay discrimination suit by some nearly 2 million women to proceed against Wal-Mart.  The case is Dukes v. Wal-Mart, No. 04-16688 (9th Cir. Feb. 6, 2007).

Here is some of the details from the Wall Street Journal:

A federal appeals court today upheld the class-action status of a sex discrimination suit filed by six women employees against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., paving way for a jury to consider the largest-ever pay discrimination suit.   

The 2-1 decision by a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco affirmed a lower court ruling that more than 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees could join the suit alleging discrimination in pay and promotional opportunities.

Since the appeals court began hearing arguments a year and a half ago, the potential number of women eligible has climbed to about two million, raising the potential for multibillion dollars in damages claims if a jury were to find discrimination.

In its 40-page opinion, the panel's majority wrote "it would be better to handle this case as a class action instead of clogging the federal courts with innumerable individual suits." It also rejected Wal-Mart's arguments that class-action status would undermine its ability to defend the suit: "Although the size of the class action is large, mere size does not render a case unmanageable," the majority wrote.

In a eight-page dissenting opinion, Judge Andrew J. Kleinfeld argued the potential for several billion dollars in damages would force a settlement on any defendant. "The punitive damages claim poses a constitutional barrier to class certification."

You can bet your bottom dollar that there will be a petition for rehearing en banc, and eventually a cert. petition to the Supreme Court, based on the constitutional due process issues surrounding cases of this size.



Employment Discrimination | Permalink

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