The Supreme Court ruling in Wal-Mart v. Dukes upheld key legal
standards. Loosening the rules for bringing a class action sex
discrimination suit could jeopardize the legal system that holds
everyone equal in the eyes of the law.
Though statistical tricks and anecdotal accounts may sometimes
succeed in swaying the court of public opinion, the Supreme Court
ruled in Wal-Mart v. Dukes that those tactics fall well short of
proving that women suffer systemic discrimination in the workplace.
In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that case the could not proceed
because the 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart employees suing
the company for alleged sex discrimination could not legally
constitute a "class." It's a good thing, too.
The Court affirmed that the mere allegation of sex discrimination
against an employer is not enough to dispense with federal court
rules and procedures for bringing forth class action lawsuits.
Lowering the bar for class action suits undermines the rule of law
in our already over-lawyered and litigious society. All Americans,
whether male or female, employee or employer, deserve due process.
It's precisely that equality of due process that protects women.
Requirements for bringing a class action suit
To preserve the rights of all parties to the litigation, the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contain specific requirements for
plaintiffs who wish to represent a large class of people. Plaintiffs
must first show four things: a large number of people belong in the
class; they all share a common legal complaint against the
defendant; the claims made by the representative plaintiffs are
typical of the people in the class they seek to represent; and, that
the plaintiffs (and their attorneys) will protect the interests of
the other class members.
Once this first hurdle is met, the second test relates to the
specific type of class action suit, which determines the type of
relief the plaintiffs are entitled to seek. This second test also
determines whether the court mandates that all potential class
members join the suit or whether class members will be allowed to
opt out of the proceedings and preserve their individual rights to
bring a suit.
In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, three plaintiffs sought to represent 1.5
million current and former female Wal-Mart employees in one of the
largest ever class action lawsuits. They alleged that the decisions
made by their local supervisors regarding pay and promotions
reflected a company policy to discriminate against women, and they
sought to mandate that all potential class members join their
Wal-Mart's corporate policies, like every other major company in
America, explicitly prohibit discrimination, penalize employees who
violate their antidiscrimination rules, and encourage diversity
among its employees. …