A class-action lawsuit alleging sex-discrimination against Wal-Mart was dismissed by the Supreme Court today, with lawyers saying the ruling narrows substantively the grounds on which class action status can be sought, whatever the issue.
The ruling that the lawsuit was too broad to be classified as a class action was unanimous.
But, the court split, 5-4, along conservative-liberal lines, on the issue of whether the case could be narrowed to remain a class action for 1.5 million women employees of the company.
The case is Wal-Mart v. Dukes, No. 10-27.
It deals with the decision both by a lower court and the entire 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to certify as a class “all women employed by Wal-Mart at any time after Dec. 26, 1998.”
The suit alleges that Wal-Mart, as a policy pays women less, gives them fewer promotions and that these promotions take longer to obtain.
Lawyers for Seyfarth Shaw, a New York law firm, said after the decision, “In workplace law circles, today is “D-Day.”
“Today’s ruling confirms what we predicted: Dukes creates a new landscape for Rule 23 certification issues, and is apt to impact employment discrimination litigation for years to come,” Seyfarth Shaw lawyers Gerald Maatman Jr. and Laura Lamechtlen said.
They said that the opinion, authored by Justice Antonin Scalia, addresses two primary questions: (1) whether the order certifying a class conforms to the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a); and (2) whether claims for monetary relief can be certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) and, if so, under what circumstances.
In the opinion, Scalia said that, “The workers “provide no convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy.”