Later this month the Supreme Court will hear an appeal in the biggest employment discrimination case in U.S. history. The lawsuit, officially titled Dukes v. Wal-Mart, Inc., contends Wal-Mart discriminated against more than a million female employees by limiting pay and restricting promotions. As the New York Times reported in December, the Supreme Court is not determining whether the discrimination occurred; it’s deciding whether the claims can be combined into one class action.
The case demonstrates why class actions play an indispensible role in our legal system and why large corporations like Wal-Mart try so desperately to prevent them from forming. Allowing the claimants to join their cases together helps to expose a systemic pattern of discrimination and forces Wal-Mart to answer to these accusations. The company would face penalties far more reflective of the harm it has caused. On the other hand, the cost of bringing each case individually would likely exceed the total recovery, not to mention tax scarce judicial resources, and many of these employees would not get their say in court. More importantly, Wal-Mart would feel no pressure to change its ways and the same discriminatory behavior woud be allowed to continue unchecked.
A ruling on behalf of the plaintiffs in this case would go far in empowering otherwise vulnerable victims throughout the country to form classes and hold powerful entities like Wal-Mart responsible for their actions. The L.A. Times reports that many large corporations are monitoring this case very closely.
Full details of Dukes v. Wal-Mart, Inc.
A list of the largest class-action lawsuits in U.S. history
Learn more about the D'Amore Law Group Class Action practice area.
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