On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether or not a class-action sex discrimination lawsuit brought by six plaintiffs on behalf of all former and past female workers of Wal-Mart should be allowed to go forward. If allowed to continue, the lawsuit would be the largest class-action employee discrimination claim ever made. According to a recent in-depth discussion of the case by CNN, the justices are expected to make a decision in the case by the end of June.
Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the U.S. and is the world's largest retailer. A class-action lawsuit could potentially represent as many as 1.6 million past and present female employees of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The lawsuit accuses Wal-Mart of systematic bias and discrimination in pay and promotions and a corporate culture that favors men over women.
Wal-Mart's attorneys argue that the case is too big to even manage. They say that sex discrimination lawsuits should be brought individually because different women's experiences will be different in different stores and in different regions. Attorneys for the plaintiffs, however, argue that sex discrimination was widespread and originated at the top of Wal-Mart.
The lawsuit originated in 2001 and has been making its way through the courts. The Supreme Court will decide whether the case can proceed as a class-action, but will not decide whether there was actually systematic sex discrimination against female employees at Wal-Mart.
The following post will further discuss some possible implications of the Supreme Court's upcoming decision.