Ms. magazine  -- more than a magazine a movement

SIGN UP FOR MS. DIGEST, JOBS, NEWS AND ALERTS

FEMINIST WIRE NEWSBRIEFS

ABOUT
SEE CURRENT ISSUE
SHOP MS. STORE
MS. IN THE CLASSROOM
FEMINIST DAILY WIRE
FEMINIST RESOURCES
PRESS
JOBS AT MS.
READ BACK ISSUES
CONTACT
RSS (XML)
 
feminist wire | daily newsbriefs

June-20-11

Supreme Court: Wal-Mart-Too Big to Sue

In a critical five to four vote, with Justice Antonin Scalia writing for the five justice majority, the Supreme Court made it much harder for the victims of discrimination to take class action cases against large employers. The US Supreme Court majority ruled that the largest sex-discrimination class-action suit in history, filed on behalf of 1.6 million women, cannot proceed as a class action.

Scalia sets up a nearly impossible standard, requiring that there be common elements tying together every one of the "literary millions of employment decisions at once," going beyond the "common questions of law or fact" required by the law. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the four member minority of Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan said there were more than enough elements to unite the claims and would have referred the case back to the 9th Circuit.

Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, stated, "First we have the government deciding that certain financial interests are too big to fail. Now we have the majority of the Supreme Court ruling that large employers are too big to sue concerning systematic employment discrimination. Without the ability to take effective class action lawsuits, women and minorities lose a major pillar in the fight to eliminate employment discrimination."

Equal Rights Advocates, who took this case for Betty Dukes ten years ago, pledged to fight on in seeking justice for these women. They are considering other avenues to pursue the fight. Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the chief sponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, pledged to develop legislation that will protect class action lawsuits like these and urged passage of the Act.

Plaintiffs in the case allege that Wal-Mart systematically discriminated through lower wages and fewer promotions for women employees; however, the Supreme Court did not rule on whether Wal-Mart discriminated against its employees.

In early March, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Women's Law Center (NWLC), as well as 32 other organizations including the Feminist Majority Foundation, filed an amicus brief in the US Supreme Court in support of the class action suit against Wal-Mart for discriminating against its women employees in stores nationwide. More than 20 large corporations supported Wal-Mart at the Supreme Court, including Intel Corporation, Altria Group Inc., Bank of America Corporation, Microsoft Corporation, and General Electric Corporation.

The initial lawsuit was filed in 2001 by Betty Dukes, a former Wal-Mart employee, and six other plaintiffs who worked in 13 of the chain's 3,400 US stores. The women sought what could have been billions of dollars in punitive damages and back pay for gendered wage discrepancies for all female employees of Wal-Mart since 1998.

Media Resources: Feminist Majority Foundation 6/20/11; New York Times 6/20/11; Bloomberg 6/20/11; Statement of Rosa DeLauro 6/20/11; Kansas City Star 6/20/11


© Feminist Majority Foundation, publisher of Ms. magazine

If you liked this story, consider making a tax-deductible donation to support Ms. magazine.

 

 

Send to a Friend
Their
Your
Comments
(optional)


More Feminist News

7/29/2014 Extensive Female Genital Mutilation Study To Be Conducted in the US - The Obama administration plans to conduct a large study on female genital mutilation (FGM) to try to assess how many girls and women in the US are at risk, and how many have already experienced, FGM. According to experts, FGM tends to take place during summer break when parents take their daughter outside of the country for the practice. Jaha Dukureh, a 24-year-old woman who grew up in Gambia, experienced FGM there, and then child marriage in the US, started a petition that gained more than 220,000 supporters. . . .
 
7/29/2014 Supporters March for Marissa Alexander in Jacksonville - Hundreds of supporters from all over the United States marched to the Duval County Courthouse in Jacksonville, FL yesterday to demand that all charges against Marissa Alexander be dropped. . . .
 
7/28/2014 Study Proves Texas Laws Have Significantly Reduced Access to Abortion - The Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) released a study in the medical journal Contraception finding that access to abortion has been significantly reduced since the state enacted it omnibus anti-abortion law HB2. The study, released last week, details the striking impact that HB2 has had on abortion access in Texas. . . .