No Certification in Massive Wal-Mart Class Action

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On June 20, 2011, the United States Supreme Court issued its long-anticipated decision in Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes et al., 564 U.S. ____ (2011), decertifying a class of 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees who alleged that they were discriminated against on the basis of their sex and were denied equal pay and promotions. Justice Scalia issued the majority opinion, parts of which were joined in by all nine Justices.

The proposed nationwide class in Wal-Mart consisted of [a]ll women employed at any Wal-Mart domestic retail store at any time since December 26, 1998, who have been or may be subjected to Wal-Mart's challenged pay and management track promotion policies and practices.”

The three class representatives did not allege that Wal-Mart had an express corporate policy of discrimination, but rather that local managers had broad discretion over pay and promotions and exercised that discretion disproportionately in favor of men and that the corporate culture permitted bias against women.

The primary evidence of the alleged uniform corporate practice consisted of statistical evidence of salaries and promotions heavily favoring male employees and anecdotal reports of female employees, along with the testimony of a sociologist who conducted a “social” analysis of Wal-Mart's corporate culture.

The requested relief sought an injunction to prohibit Wal-Mart's discriminatory practices, and also a claim to recover back pay.

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