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Justices may favor Wal-Mart in sex discrimination case

The U.S. Supreme Court justices are currently considering a case with important implications for future class-action lawsuits claiming discriminatory practices by employers. As discussed in an earlier post, the justices heard arguments regarding whether a lawsuit claiming that Wal-Mart systematically discriminated against women in pay and promotions should be allowed to proceed as a class action. If allowed to proceed, it would be the largest class action claiming bias in the workplace to ever be brought against a private employer.

According to some news organizations, including Bloomberg News, the justices may be favoring Wal-Mart’s side. Bloomberg reports that it seemed more justices favored the world’s largest private employer when questioning the two sides. The three justices who appeared to be on the side of the plaintiffs were the three female justices.

If the plaintiffs are allowed to proceed, some businesses worry that it will lead to a flood of litigation including antitrust, job bias and product-liability lawsuits. Wal-Mart claims that the lawsuit would be indefensible if given class-action status because it covers too many women across too many stores and regions. The lawsuit was brought by six women, but could potentially represent a million women. Regional managers were given much discretion in pay and promotion decisions. Each side disagrees over whether that implicates the corporation in any discriminatory practices by individual managers.


High court appears to favor Wal-Mart in gender-bias case (Bloomberg News)

John P. Aldrich
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