Labor & Employment

Reports: Supremes Skeptical About Allowing Massive Wal-Mart Class Action to Proceed

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Whether to allow the largest class action sex-discrimination case ever, against Wal-Mart Stores Inc., to go forward was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court today.

And, although the New York Times said the justices seemed evenly divided on the question, other news stories reported that they were skeptical about allowing the massive disparate impact case, which is based on statistical evidence, to proceed.

Attorney Theodore Boutrous, representing Wal-Mart, contended that the class of women, which could potentially number well over 1 million, does not have enough in common, Reuters reports.

But while his presentation was “meandering,” writes Lyle Denniston in SCOTUSblog, the argument by plaintiffs’ attorney Joseph Sellers seemingly gave the justices an opportunity to point to what is described in the blog post as a possible fatal flaw in the case.

On the one hand, Sellers contended, a strong corporate culture in the global retailer’s Arkansas headquarters made it difficult or impossible for women to receive fair pay and promotion. But he also argued that excessive “discretion” accorded to local Walmart managers was behind the problems women workers allegedly face.

“It’s not clear to me: What is the unlawful policy that Wal-Mart has adopted, under your theory of the case>” said Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Additional coverage:

ABA Journal: “Corporate Giant Wal-Mart Faces a Huge Class Action by Female Workers” “Wal-Mart Asks Supreme Court to Put the Brakes On Massive Employment Class Action”

Bloomberg: “High court appears to favor Wal-Mart in gender-bias case”

CNN: “Justices to hear appeal over Wal-Mart gender pay lawsuit”

Fair Employment Legal Update: “Wal-Mart Suit Crosses Competition Lines in Attempt to Avoid Largest Job Discrimination Class-Action”

Forbes: “Lawyer Suing Wal-Mart Roasted in Supreme Court Argument”

Los Angeles Times: “Supreme Court hears arguments in Wal-Mart sex discrimination case”

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