Attorneys who represent businesses have been watching to see how the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the giant Wal-Mart sex discrimination case might affect pending class-action employment litigation. In the weeks following the case, the class-action status of several plaintiff groups who have filed lawsuits against their employers has been upheld. These decisions have prompted some businesses to complain that judges have been interpreting the Supreme Court's recent ruling too narrowly.
On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the sex discrimination lawsuit brought by several women on behalf of 1.5 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart could not proceed as a class action. The decision to dismiss the class-action lawsuit was unanimous. If it would have been allowed to proceed, the lawsuit would have been the largest class action to ever proceed against a private employer. Had the lawsuit gone forward and succeeded, it could have cost Wal-Mart billions of dollars in damages.
As the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc seems to always be in the midst of commercial litigation of some kind. The company has also faced many employment lawsuits as the world's largest private employer. The company is currently waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide whether a massive sex discrimination lawsuit claiming men were favored over women in pay and promotions can proceed as a class-action.
As reported in an earlier post, the U.S. Supreme Court justices listened last week to arguments in what could be the largest class-action lawsuit claiming discrimination in employment to ever be brought against a private employer. The justices will now have to decide whether to allow the sex discrimination lawsuit brought by six women against Wal-Mart, the world's largest private employer. The women would like the lawsuit to represent all female employees currently or formerly employed by Wal-Mart since 1998.
A judge recently upheld a fine issued to Wal-Mart by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for failing to put effective safety measures in place during the Thanksgiving weekend sale of 2008, which resulted in an employee being trampled to death. Wal-Mart had been fighting the fine because of concern that OSHA and government could become too involved in dictating how businesses run sales.
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.