Involving Wal-Mart and approximately 1.6 million plaintiffs. That is not a typo, 1.6 million plaintiffs. The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart demonstrated gender bias in pay and promotions. Most consumers recognize Wal-Mart as the world’s largest retailer, but it is also the nation’s largest private employer.
The issue that the US Supreme Court will decide is whether the justcies should allow certification of the largest class action employement lawsuit ever attempted in American courts. Wal-mart’s legal defense is that the Plaintiffs’ lawyers have framed the case in a manner that implicates that every store, every person as being treated the same. They do not believe that one woman can be representative of a million women in a case that that the Court is about to hear. The Plaintiffs argument is that the Wal-Mart is simply trying to claim that large companies should be exempt from class actions because they are too big. The Plaintiffs response is that there is no large-company exception to civil-rights claims.
This is not the first time Wal-Mart has been accused of civil rights violations. In 2001 Wal-Mart settled thirteen lawsuits filed by African-American truck drivers with disabilities, by paying out $6 million.
Obviously this decision will shape the workplace landscape for years to come and it should be an interesting decision for this fairly pro-business US Supreme Court.
The oral arguments from this case should be posted online in a few days. You can go to www.oyez.org/ to listen.