The Supreme Court agreed Monday, Dec. 6 that it will hear an appeal by Wal-Mart regarding one of the largest employment discrimination cases in U.S. history. The lawsuit, Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, No. 10-277, was originally filed in 2001 and alleges Wal-Mart discriminated against hundreds of thousands of women in both pay and promotion.

Wal-Mart has disputed the validity of the lawsuit proceeding as a class-action, saying there are too many plaintiffs with too many different circumstances to qualify for class status. However, in April, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco ruled 6-to-5 that the case could proceed as a class-action.

The Supreme Court ruling gives Wal-Mart another chance to plead its case against qualifying the lawsuit as a class-action, and could have repercussions on other class-action suits, including categories of antitrust, securities and product liability.

Lawyers for Wal-Mart say the Plaintiffs do not have enough in common to make a class action appropriate, as they were employed in more than 3,400 stores throughout the country.

Attorneys for the Plaintiffs in this case argue the class is large naturally because Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest employer and “manages its operations and employment practices in a highly uniform and centralized manner.” They assert, as do other civil-rights groups, that a class-action suit is the best way to make businesses stop discriminatory practices.

Arguments are expected to be heard this spring, and a decision handed down by the end of June.

Sources: New York Times; The Washington Post


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