SCOTUS throws out massive class action sex discrimination case
Unanimously overruling the San Francisco-based 9th District Court, the Supreme Court threw out a massive class action sex discrimination case against Walmart. The key issue was whether the one and a half million women hired by Walmart, or who were not hired by Walmart after the case was filed, had enough in common to constitute a legally valid class able to sue. Reuters summarizes:
The high court accepted Wal-Mart's main argument that the female employees in different jobs at 3,400 different stores nationwide and with different supervisors do not have enough in common to be lumped together in a single class-action lawsuit.
The Supreme Court only decided whether the 10-year-old lawsuit can proceed to trial as a group, not the merits of the sex-discrimination allegations at the heart of the case.
said there must be significant proof that Wal-Mart operated under a general policy of discrimination. "That is entirely absent here," he said, noting that Wal-Mart's official corporate policies forbid sex discrimination.
"Here, [the group of women employees] wish to sue about literally millions of employment decisions at once," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.
"Without some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together, it will be impossible to say that examination of all the class members' claims for relief will produce a common answer to the crucial question 'why was I disfavoured.'"
Mr Scalia also noted that Wal-Mart's written policy did not allow gender discrimination, and did not have any testing procedure or evaluation method that could be shown to be biased.
The unanimous decision is yet another rebuke to the San Francisco-based 9th District Court of Appeals, the most-overruled circuit court in the nation, clearly out of step. The 9th also has the largest region under its jurisdiction, leading to calls to cut the district into two smaller regions. Perhaps the 9th's jurisdiction ought to be limited to the City of San Francisco, with a new circuit created to encompass the rest of the current district. THis is within the jurisdiction of Congress, according to the Constitution.
The case is now dead. However, the Court's liberal wing dissented over a subsidiary point: whether the case could be re-filed. Bloomberg notes:
Four justices -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan -- said they would have returned the case to a lower court and let the workers try to press ahead with a class action under a different legal theory.
If the lawsuit had been successful, every employer in America woould have been at risk of massive, vague lawsuits. This decision is a victory for job creation.