Lessons for Employers in the Wake of the US Supreme Court’s Rejection of Class Actions for Litigating Gender Discrimination in Wal-Mart v. Dukes


What are the lessons for employers in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s much-awaited decision in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, et al.? While the decision focused on the propriety of using class actions in employment discrimination litigation, it also validated best practices for employers who train local managers to comply with anti-discrimination laws and then delegate decision-making, subject to corporate compliance review.

In Dukes, the Supreme Court reversed the District Court and Ninth Circuit’s rulings that certified a proposed class of approximately 1.5 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart who sought to litigate claims of sex discrimination under Title VII in the form of a class action, rather than individually. The plaintiffs alleged widespread gender discrimination, including denial of equal pay and promotion opportunities, and sought injunctive and declaratory relief, punitive damages and backpay against Wal-Mart. Plaintiffs alleged that, by delegating substantial discretion to individual managers, Wal-Mart “fosters or facilitates gender stereotyping and discrimination, . . . and that this discrimination is common to all women who work or have worked in Wal-Mart stores.”

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