Wal-Mart Stores Inc recently won against a massive class action/sex-discrimination case after the US Supreme Court decided in Wal-Mart’s favor. The lawsuit is the biggest case ever filed and the highest court’s decision is considered a major victory for the world’s largest retailer and for big business in general.
The US Supreme Court and its justices unanimously held that the more than 1 million female employees nationwide could not proceed together in a single lawsuit that seeks billions of dollars from Wal-Mart. The lawsuit accused Wal-Mart of sex-discrimination saying that its women employees are underpaid and are given fewer promotions.
The US Supreme Court said that the class action violated federal rules for lawsuits of similar nature.
It said that the female employees of Wal-Mart in different jobs from its 3,400 different stores nationwide and with different supervisors do not have enough in common to be lumped together in a single class action lawsuit.
The US Chamber of Commerce business group celebrated the decision stating that the class action case as the most important case in more than a decade. It was denounced by women’s groups.
It was a major victory for the retail giant after it faced myriad legal battles which include attempts to unionize its workers and attempts to block some of its stores from opening in several places.
Wal-Mart shares were up 18 cents to $53.02 in late trading after rising as much as 1.3% earlier today.
It must also be noted that even if the US Supreme Court rejected the class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart, the three remaining female plaintiffs can still pursue their individual claims.
The ruling in the biggest business case of the high court’s 2010-11 term could affect other pending class action lawsuits such as the case against the tobacco industry and Costco Wholesale Corp.
The Obama administration remains silent on the US Supreme Court’s ruling, but the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission previously supported the workers. It must be remembered that ending pay discrimination was a key priority of the Obama administration, but according to White House spokesperson, the US government was not a party to the lawsuit.
Reminiscent of the landmark case that made the tobacco industry lose billions of dollars, class action lawsuits as large as this one filed against Wal-Mart make it easier for plaintiffs to sue corporations. In turn, large companies like Wal-Mart prevent such from taking place to avoid legal precedents that can be used by complainants in the future, thus wreaking havoc to large businesses’ profits.