U.S. Supreme Court rules out discrimination class-action suit against Wal-Mart

June 21st, 2011 - 8:16 am ICT by BNO News  

WASHINGTON, D.C. (BNO NEWS) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled in favor of Wal-Mart as a group of over 1 million employees had filed a class-action lawsuit against the nation’s largest retailer.

Around 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees, both current and former, were seeking backpay due to damages as they alleged discriminatory practices by their employer. It was one of the the largest ever employee class-action lawsuits in U.S. history.

The group had claimed that local managers exercise their discretion over pay and promotions disproportionately in favor of men, which has an unlawful disparate impact on female employees; and that Wal-Mart’s refusal to cabin its managers’ authority amounts to disparate treatment.

However, on behalf of the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said the “respondents provide no convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy,” concluding that “they have not established the existence of any common question.”

Furthermore, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with Chief Judge Kozinski that the members of the group “held a multitude of different jobs, at different levels of Wal-Mart’s hierarchy, for variable lengths of time, in 3,400 stores, sprinkled across 50 states, with a kaleidoscope of supervisors (male and female), subject to a variety of regional policies that all differed. Some thrived while others did poorly. They have little in common but their sex and this lawsuit.”

With the ruling in favor of Wal-Mart, the group of female workers will be unable to sue the retailer in what would have been billions of dollars in losses. In addition, the Supreme Court said that the group’s claims for backpay were improperly certified.

Gisel Ruiz, Executive Vice President of People at Wal-Mart U.S., said the company was pleased with Monday’s ruling, adding that the Court had made the right decision. “Walmart has had strong policies against discrimination for many years. The Court today unanimously rejected class certification and, as the majority made clear, the plaintiffs’ claims were worlds away from showing a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy,” Ruiz stated.

“Walmart has a long history of providing advancement opportunities for our female associates and will continue its efforts to build a robust pipeline of future female leaders,” Ruiz added.

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