The Supreme Court derailed attempts by over 1 million women who worked at Walmart, past and present, to sue the retail giant for alleged unfair treatment when it came to wages and advancement at the company.
And the reasoning by the justices in the court opinion has got me scratching my head. They don’t think the women would be able to prove the retailer discriminated because Walmart didn’t have an explicit policy of discrimination.
Helloooo, a company would have to be pretty stupid if they actually wrote down, “hey, let’s deny women better pay and promotions whenever we get a chance.”
This from the opinion when it came to the women’s burden of proof:
The first manner of bridging the gap obviously has no application here; Wal-Mart has no testing procedure or other companywide evaluation method that can be charged with bias. The whole point of permitting discretionary decisionmaking is to avoid evaluating employees under a common standard. The second manner of bridging the gap requires “significant proof ” that Wal-Mart “operated under a general policy of discrimination.” That is entirely absent here.
This is a key part of why the high court decided, in a 5-4 decision that the women could not move ahead. This from MSNBC.com:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled for Wal-Mart in the largest sex-discrimination lawsuit ever, overturning an earlier decision that gave class-action status for female employees seeking billions of dollars…who claimed they were paid less and giving them fewer promotions at the company.
Getting class-action status would have given the women a greater voice.
Discrimination claims made by the plaintiffs in the case, led by Betty Dukes, and going back nearly a decade, point to alleged far-reaching bias behavior at the nation’s largest retailer. The 9th Circuit Court granted class-action status in 2009. Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the United States with more than 2 million employees, appealed to the Supreme Court. Wal-Mart is not yet disputing individual claims of bias, but says it’s unfair to allow a class-action suit across so many of its stores in so many different states. They’d prefer to fight such bias claims one worker at a time.
But fighting as a group is the whole point. The one-suit-one-woman approach isn’t enough to change a culture of bias that is endemic throughout Corporate America.
“Class actions are the most effective way to overcome systematic and traditional forms of employment discrimination,” said John Mahoney, an employment attorney for Tully Rinckey in Washington, D.C. And, he added, it would be “ineffective and time consuming to try their cases individually. It will be a strain on the judicial system and drag on for years.”
If that’s what Walmart was looking to achieve, they gained a huge victory towards that today.