WASHINGTON–The U.S. Supreme Court yesterday ruled against a class-action suit brought against Walmart by about 1.5 million of employees who charged the retailer with discrimination against women.
The decision, a five-to-four ruling by the court, reversed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in favor of the plaintiffs, who have been led by Betty Dukes, an employee of the Walmart store in Pittsburg, Calif., and who have been suing Walmart for relief, punitive damages and back pay relating to alleged discriminatory practices by local store managers. Writing the majority opinion for the court, Justice Antonin Scalia said the suit failed to meet the legal requirements for a class action in regard to commonality (meaning that Walmart’s practices were discriminatory in the same way against such a large number of employees), and failed to prove significantly that the company as a whole operated under a general policy of discrimination.
According to press reports, the ruling did not decide whether Walmart did discriminate against women. It concentrated on whether the suit met these key requirements for class-action suits.
In a statement issued after the ruling, Walmart said the court’s decision “pulls the rug out from under the accusations made against Walmart over the last 10 years. Walmart has a long history of providing advancement opportunities for our female associates and over the years, we have made tremendous strides in developing women throughout the organization.”
According to press reports, the plaintiffs said they would continue to pursue their case against Walmart, but through either individual suits or through suits from smaller groups.
The class-action suit was first filed with the Court of Appeals in 2000.