The Huffington Post is reporting that the Supreme Court decided in Wal-Mart's favor against women seeking a class-action suit against the corporation for sex bias. The lawsuit makes it harder to mount large-scale bias claims against the nation's biggest companies.
The justices all agreed that the lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. could not proceed as a class action in its current form, reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. By a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the court said that there were too many women in too many jobs at Wal-Mart to wrap into one lawsuit.
The lawsuit could have involved up to 1.6 million women, with Wal-Mart facing potentially billions of dollars in damages. The handful of women who brought the case may pursue their claims on their own, with much less money at stake and less pressure on Wal-Mart to settle. Two of the named plaintiffs, Christine Kwapnoski and Betty Dukes, attended the argument. Kwapnoski is an assistant manager at a Sam's Club in Concord, Calif. Dukes is a greeter at the Walmart in Pittsburg, Calif.
In a statement, Wal-Mart said, "The court today unanimously rejected class certification and, as the majority made clear, the plaintiffs' claims were worlds away from showing a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy."
Dukes and Kwapnoski said they were disappointed with the ruling but vowed to push ahead with their claims. Both women spoke on a conference call with reporters.
"We still are determined to go forward to present our case in court. We believe we will prevail there," Dukes said. Justice Antonin Scalia led the conservative majority, saying that there need to be common elements tying together "literally millions of employment decisions at once."
Scalia said of the lawsuit against the nation's largest private employer, "That is entirely absent here."
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court's four liberal justices, said that there was more than enough uniting the claims. "Wal-Mart's delegation of discretion over pay and promotions is a policy uniform throughout all stores," Ginsburg said.
It is clear that the Supreme Court has lined up its interests with big business, as opposed to the interests of working women. It's interesting that with that many claims at stake, a pattern of discrimination could not be determined. Now Wal-Mart, based on its size alone, will be able to literally ruin these women financially. That doesn't sound fair or equitable to us.
Not to be outdone, the plaintiffs have vowed to continue the fight in the lower counts despite the power mismatch. We're glad that they are not deterred by this setback — in fact, they are newly inspired. We'll be keeping an eye on whether "Davida" will bring down Goliath.
Read more at the Huffington Post.
In other news: Obama to Announce Afghanistan Withdrawal Plans Wednesday.