The Supreme Court, Monday, decided to hear whether more than 1.5 million female employees of Wal-Mart can go forward with the largest discrimination class action suit in the United States’ history.
The court accepted Wal-Mart’s petition seeking to stop before trial a suit that asserts women were turned down for promotions and paid less than men.
The justices will not decide on merits, but will look at the question of whether a single suit is proper when charges are spread across thousands of stores throughout the country and involve women in many different jobs.
The decision as to whether a class action suit is allowed could be as important as the discrimination claims. Business groups and civil rights activists are in their corners over implications of the case.
Business groups say certification of a class action puts enormous pressure on a company to settle, regardless of whether the charges can be proved, because of the cost of the litigation and the potential award. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, the sum could be billions of dollars.