Supreme Court Victory for Employers in Dukes v. Wal-Mart


On June 20, 2011, in a resounding victory for employers, the United States Supreme Court struck down the largest employment class action ever certified. Justice Scalia, writing for the majority in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., held that the Northern California District Court’s decision to certify the class of 1.5 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart was improper for two noteworthy reasons.

First, the majority explained that the crux of the inquiry in an employment discrimination case is the reason for the employment decision. The Dukes plaintiffs, however, alleged claims arising out of workplace issues as diverse as having been yelled at by a manager, pay disparities, disputed demotions, and lack of access to a training program—in the Court’s words, “millions of employment decisions at once.” Without some “glue” to hold the reasons for these decisions together, the Court explained, it is impossible to say that common questions of law or fact predominated.

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