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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court to Weigh Huge Class Action in Wal-Mart Sex Bias Case

Posted Dec 6, 2010 10:23 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether up to 1.5 million former and current employees of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club can bring their claims in a class action lawsuit.

The Supreme Court granted certiorari today, according to How Appealing and SCOTUSblog. The plaintiffs contend Wal-Mart was biased against women in pay and promotions throughout its 3,400 stores.

“The stakes are huge,” according to a New York Times preview of the case. “If the Supreme Court allows the suit to proceed as a class action, that could easily cost Wal-Mart $1 billion or more in damages, legal experts say.”

The Los Angeles Times says the case, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, is the largest job bias lawsuit in the nation's history. The lead plaintiff, Betty Dukes, is a Walmart greeter. When the suit was filed, she earned $8.44 an hour, despite nine years of work at the store. Within a year, she saw her pay increased by almost 50 percent.

The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the class action in April in a 6-5 vote.

Briefs in the case cited the work of the Supreme Court's newest justices, the New York Times reports in its story on the cert grant. Wal-Mart noted an unsigned student note on class certification written by Justice Elena Kagan. The bias plaintiffs cited a previous ruling by Justice Sonia Sotomayor, issued as a federal appeals judge, allowing an even larger antitrust class action. One of the plaintiffs was Wal-Mart.

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