A few weeks have passed since the Supreme Court ruled that a sex discrimination lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart on behalf of 1.5 million current and former female employees of the retailer could not proceed as a class action. Now employment attorneys have been watching to see how the decision will be interpreted in regards to pending class action litigation. So far, according to a Reuters analysis piece, it has been seen that the case has not stopped class actions from succeeding, especially lawsuits involving wage-and-hour and overtime disputes.
The justices in the Wal-Mart case ruled that the women did not have enough in common to be a class. The women worked across different regions and under different managers. The women had tried to prove that their employer had systematically discriminated against women by favoring men in pay and promotions. The women say that they will continue to fight the retailer with smaller and more localized sex discrimination lawsuits.
Recently decided lawsuits did have to take extra care in explaining how their class of plaintiffs was similar to each other as opposed to the combined plaintiffs in the Wal-Mart case. Judges have also noted these similarities in their rulings in order to point out how the case was different from the Wal-Mart case.
Plaintiffs who can band together against an employer with a common grievance are able to combine resources in their fight. The Wal-Mart decision was seen to put a greater burden of proof on plaintiffs to convincingly demonstrate that their experiences of employment discrimination or wage-and-hour violations are similar enough to be filed as a joint complaint.
The next post will further discuss some recent cases that have tested the Wal-Mart decision.
Source: Reuters, Analysis: "Wal-Mart ruling no knock-out blow for class actions," Moira Herbst, 12 July 2011