Many of our posts lately have focused on employee-related lawsuits against Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer. As a giant corporation, Wal-Mart faces many lawsuits every year. One in particular, however, has been carefully watched and followed by legal experts nationwide.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a gender discrimination class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart cannot proceed. This would have been the largest class action suit in history, involving over 1.5 million female workers and seeking tens of billions of dollars in damages and back pay.
The Supreme Court's decision comes at the end of a decade of legal work. The original case was filed 10 years ago by 6 female Wal-Mart employees. The women alleged that they received lower pay than equivalent male employees and that they were passed over for promotions. The problem, they claimed, was a systematic one.
Eventually, the case made its way to the US Supreme Court. Lawyers for the plaintiffs presented evidence they hoped would convince Justices of systematic gender discrimination. Lawyers argued that approximately two-thirds of Wal-Mart workers are women, yet just a fraction rise to the position of store manager.
Additionally, lawyers noted that in almost all job categories, women earned less income than men. This was even the case for women that had worked there longer than their male counterparts, they said.
In the end, the majority of Supreme Court was unconvinced. In a narrow 5-4 ruling, the highest court in land found in favor of Wal-Mart. Check back later this week as we discuss why the Court ruled this way, as well as what the ruling will mean for future employment discrimination lawsuits.
Source: Google News, "US Supreme Court rejects Wal-Mart gender bias suit," Lucile Malandain, 20 June 2011