Supreme Court Rejects Massive Employment Class Action: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes

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Yesterday, the Supreme Court dealt a blow to another purported class action.1 In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, No. 10-277, 2011 U.S. LEXIS 4567 (June 20, 2011), the Supreme Court reversed the certification of a massive class in a gender discrimination case against Wal-Mart. This decision will certainly affect exposure in employment discrimination cases, but also provides defendants with additional arguments in opposing any proposed class, especially classes brought under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(b)(1) or (b)(2).

In Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., plaintiffs brought a Title VII action against Wal-Mart, alleging that Wal-Mart discriminates against female employees through a “corporate culture” that permits bias against women to infect the discretionary decision making of local supervisors. The District Court and the Court of Appeals approved the certification of a class of about 1.5 million plaintiffs, current and former female Wal-Mart employees who allege that Wal-Mart discriminated against women in pay and promotions. Plaintiffs sought injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and backpay. The lower courts found that plaintiffs had satisfied Rule 23(a)2 and that a 23(b)(2)3 class was appropriate because the monetary damages sought did not predominate over the injunctive and declaratory relief sought.

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