Wal-Mart is hoping the Supreme Court will take on its efforts to avoid trying a half million or more sex discrimination cases in a single lawsuit. On Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the class action suit to go forward. Fittingly, given Walmart’s status as the largest private employer in the country, it’s the largest class action ever certified. All women employed by Wal-Mart any time after December 26, 1998, were members of the original class action. The new decision certifies as a class all currently employed females with claims that they have been paid less than men, or have been unfairly passed over or made to wait for promotional opportunities as compared with men. This class is eligible to present their claims for back pay and injunctive relief. The trial court will be asked to consider the extent whether to certify the punitive damages claims, and the claims of women who were members of the original class but who no longer work at Wal-Mart.
The case is important for the scope of the claims. The decision pointed out that size alone could not drive the decision to certify a class or make each discrimination case proceed alone. Instead, the issue in class action certification is whether the common issues to be decided predominate. The majority of the Ninth Circuit noted that the trial court had found “significant evidence of company-wide corporate practices and policies, which include (a) excessive subjectivity in personnel decisions, (b) gender stereotyping, and (c) maintenance of a strong corporate culture; (2) statistical evidence of gender disparities caused by discrimination; and (3) anecdotal evidence of gender bias.”
The 137-page opinion can be accessed through the class action’s website, as can information related to joining the class.
According to one source, the Supreme Court is likely to take an interest in the case. If so, the case will linger for a few more years before any proof is heard.