The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on Tuesday in a class-action employment lawsuit that will have a long-standing impact on business litigation. The justices will be deciding whether a sex discrimination case brought by several plaintiffs against Wal-Mart can proceed on a class-action track.
The case against the worlds’ largest retailer and the biggest private employer in the U.S. would be the largest class-action lawsuit to be brought against a U.S. business by employees. If allowed to proceed as a class action, the lawsuit could represent up to 1.6 million former and current female employees of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. A federal appeals court ruled that the case could proceed as a class action, so Wal-Mart appealed to the Supreme Court.
According to a recent article about the case by CNN, the plaintiffs argue that sex discrimination was widespread at Wal-Mart and that it was part of the corporate culture.
Wal-Mart’s attorneys argue that the case as a class action is unmanageable and indefensible. They argue that individual lawsuits can be brought by women employees, but a class action could not possibly represent the individual experiences of more than a million women across different stores and different regions. They will argue that allowing the case to proceed will be bad for the economy and jobs by leading to similar costly and baseless class-action lawsuits to be brought against U.S. companies.
The Supreme Court will not decide whether widespread sex discrimination occurred at Wal-Mart, but just whether the lawsuit can proceed as a class action. The justices are expected to make a decision by late June.