The largest employment class-action lawsuit in United States History, in which plaintiff's allege that Wal-Mart routinely discriminated against between 500,000 and 1.5 million women in pay and promotion, is going to be heard by the Supreme Court. Wal-Mart is no longer contesting guilt, but they're protesting the size of the class -- it includes women from 3,400 stores in 170 job classifications. Wal-Mart could be on the hook for billions of dollars. As Nitasha Tiku says at Daily Intel:
In their brief asking the Supreme Court to deny reviewing Wal-Mart's appeal, the plaintiffs said Wal-Mart's real objection to class action came down to the size of the class. “The class is large," they argued, "because Wal-Mart is the nation’s largest employer and manages its operations and employment practices in a highly uniform and centralized manner.” Wal-Mart countered that plaintiffs in 3,400 stores under 170 job classifications do not have enough in common to make class action appropriate, which some call a stalling technique since they're no longer contesting guilt. Hmmm, isn't that sort of like saying you can't charge us with mass theft because we robbed too many different people?
I'm not expecting the current court to side against Wal-Mart, however. At every opportunity, the Roberts Court has expanded the rights of corporations. Moreover, as Tiku points out, the issue might even split Obama's two appointees. Wal-Mart twice cited Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote an influential law-review note on class certification while she was a student at Harvard.
But class-action suits are important ways for a discriminated class of people to be compensated. If Wal-Mart as an institution discriminates against women, it seems perfectly reasonable that those affected stretch across the country and through the entire corporate hierarchy. Women already have a hard time seeking redress against discrimination; it's disappointing to consider that it's about to get even harder.
-- Monica Potts