The U.S. Supreme Court threw out an enormous employment discrimination class-action suit against Wal-Mart which involved female workers claiming they had been discriminated against and that they had not received the same pay raises and promotions as male workers at Wal-Mart.
An article written by Adam Liptak and Stephanie Clifford in The New York Times on Tuesday June 21, 2011 said that “the suit claimed that Wal-Mart’s policies and practices had led to countless discriminatory decisions over pay and promotions.” 6/21/11 N.Y. Times A1, 2011 WLNR 12335364
The court decided the case 5 to 4 along ideological lines on the basic question in the case–as to whether the suit satisfied a requirement of the class that there were questions of law or fact common to the class of female employees…Rule 23(a)..Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 2011WL 2437013 (U.S. June 20, 2011).
“Justice Ginsburg filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joined. According to Justice Ginsburg, the Court’s opinion “disqualifies the class at the starting gate, holding that the plaintiffs cannot cross the ‘commonality’ line set by Rule 23(a)(2). In this ruling, the Court imports into the Rule 23(a) determination concerns properly addressed in Rule 23(a) (3) assessment. (Reversing Dukes v. Wal-Mart, Inc.474 F.3d 1214(C.A. 9-Cal. 2007), op. withdrawn and superseded on den. Of reh’g, 509 F. 3d 1168 (C.A. 9.-Cal. 2007), on reh’g en banc, 603 F. 3d 571 (C.A. 2010) Westlaw Bulletin, 2011 WL 2437013 (U.S.)
Lyle Dennison, reporter for the SCOTUSblog (Supreme Court of the United States Blog), stated in his blog dated June 20th, 2011 that it appears that each woman in the class-action suit in Dukes v. Wal-Mart will have to complain on her own to federal officials or file her own lawsuit; these options would be more expensive then joining a class-action and probably too expensive for the average female worker at Wal-Mart.
Dennison goes on to say that the Wal-Mart case could affect the way the U.S. Supreme Court treats a case that already has a docket number with the Court, Phillip Morris USA, Inc., et al., v. Jackson (10-735). The Phillip Morris case “turns entirely on Constitutional questions” and this is a case that Justice Scalia stayed ruling on last September-he wanted to hold off deciding that case until the Wal-Mart case was decided. Lyle Dennison guesses that the Court will probably take action on the Phillip Morris case now that it has made a ruling in the Wal-Mart v. Dukes case, and that the Court will either hear the case now or send it back to the Louisiana courts to consider the impact of the Wal-Mart decision. Dennison further predicts that the Phillip Morris case will likely go before the Justices in a private conference before their summer recess.
The Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision will surely have an impact on class-action suits going forward and only time will tell how big an effect that will be.