High Court Says Giant Wal-Mart Class Action Cannot Move Forward

June 20, 2011 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked a massive gender bias lawsuit against Wal-Mart that could have involved up to 1.6 million women.

The Associated Press reports that the court ruled unanimously that the lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cannot proceed as a class action, reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (see Supreme Court Hears Arguments in Giant Wal-Mart Bias Case). The handful of women who brought the lawsuit may pursue their claims on their own, with much less money at stake and less pressure on Wal-Mart to settle, according to the AP.  

However, the justices divided 5-4 on another aspect of the ruling that could make it much harder to mount similar class-action discrimination lawsuits against large employers, the news report said. Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion for the court’s conservative majority said there needs to be common elements tying together “literally millions of employment decisions at once,” which he contended is “entirely absent here.”  

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the court’s four liberal justices, said there was more than enough uniting the claims. “Wal-Mart’s delegation of discretion over pay and promotions is a policy uniform throughout all stores,” Ginsburg wrote, according to the AP. 

The Supreme Court’s opinion is here.