Court rejects Wal-Mart bias class-action
The U.S. Supreme Court, in a ruling that will mean new limits on nationwide class-action suits, ruled that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. can’t be sued for discrimination on behalf of potentially a million female workers.
The justices, dividing 5-4, said the lawyers pressing the case failed to point to a common corporate policy that led to gender discrimination against workers at thousands of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores across the country.
The workers “provide no convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the majority.
The court was unanimous on another issue, with all nine justices saying a federal appeals court applied the wrong legal rules in approving the class action.
The company, based in Bentonville, Ark., said in a statement that the ruling “effectively ends this class-action lawsuit.”
“As the majority made clear, the plaintiffs’ claims were worlds away from showing a companywide pay and promotion policy,” Wal-Mart said.
The ruling limits the ability of plaintiffs’ lawyers to win multimillion dollar damages through a single lawsuit, particularly against employers. Units of Cigna Corp., Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Bayer AG, Toshiba Corp., Publicis Group SA, Deere & Co. and Costco Wholesale Corp. all face gender discrimination complaints that seek class-action status.
More than 20 companies supported Wal-Mart at the Supreme Court, including Intel Corp., Altria Group Inc., Bank of America Corp., Microsoft Corp. and General Electric Co.
Four justices — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — said they would have returned the case to a lower court and let the workers try to press a class action using a different legal theory.
Lawyers said they would seek to move ahead with claims on behalf of aggrieved workers.