On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear an appeal by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that will ask the court to stop an employee discrimination lawsuit from proceeding against the company on a class-action track. Several former and current female employees brought a sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart in 2001, and they are seeking to pursue the lawsuit on behalf of all former and current female employees of Wal-Mart, which could mean up to 1.6 million plaintiffs.
Wal-Mart will argue that the size of the class action makes it unmanageable and indefensible. The plaintiffs argue that female employees were systematically discriminated against in pay and promotions in the company and that a company cannot be too big to have a class-action civil rights case brought against it.
The justices will not be deciding whether Wal-Mart systematically discriminated against female employees, but whether the lawsuit can proceed as a class action. The justices are expected to make a ruling by the end of June. The ruling is expected to have a long-term impact on business litigation.
According to a recent article on the case by CNN, Wal-Mart will argue that ruling for the plaintiffs could mean opening up U.S. businesses to many more of these huge class-action lawsuits. They argue that the lawsuit is baseless and that there is no way that one lawsuit can represent each woman’s experience throughout different stores and regions.
Wal-Mart appealed to the Supreme Court after a federal appeals court ruled that the class action could proceed. Wal-Mart’s attorneys say that a Supreme Court ruling against them now will be bad for business and for jobs.
Justices to hear appeal over Wal-Mart gender pay lawsuit (CNN)