Even though the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a giant class-action sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart could not proceed, litigation related to past sex discrimination is not yet over for the world’s largest private retailer. The women who filed the lawsuit on behalf of 1.5 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart say they will keep fighting, on not a smaller-scale, but through a multitude of smaller cases.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the proposed class-action was too large. They said that the plaintiffs failed to prove that Wal-Mart had a uniform policy of discrimination against women in pay and promotions. The plaintiffs had argued that Wal-Mart’s policy of allowing regional store owners to make employment-related decisions had led to discrimination. While that could be true in certain cases, the argument does not prove a uniform corporate policy of sex discrimination. The case could make it more difficult for employees to bring class-action lawsuits against employers. Employees will have to demonstrate that there was a uniform company policy that led to the discrimination of a large group of employees.
Wal-Mart argued, and the Supreme Court agreed, that the women who were allegedly discriminated against would have to bring individual suits against Wal-Mart because their situations differed at different stores and in different regions. So, that is what the women plan to do. There could possibly be thousands of smaller lawsuits brought against the company. The women also plan on bringing claims to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Wal-Mart Women Vow to Press Bias Fight in Lower Court, U.S. Rights Agency (Bloomberg)