Supreme Court rules for Wal-Mart in sex bias lawsuit

McClatchy NewspapersJune 20, 2011 

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday ruled a massive class action lawsuit against Wal-Mart goes too far, handing business a major legal victory.

Though divided in some ways, justices unanimously agreed that the sex discrimination lawsuit filed on behalf of 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees swept in too many unrelated people. The ruling will constrain future class-action suits as well.

“The mere claim by employees of the same company that they have suffered a (discrimination) injury…gives no cause to believe that all their claims can be productively litigated at once,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the court.

Individual employees at Wal-Mart stores in Pittsburgh, Calif. and Duarte Calif. had claimed that they were passed over for pay and promotions. They argued that the Wal-Mart “corporate culture” permitted systematic bias against women, and so pressed for what would have been one of the largest class-action lawsuits ever.

“They have little in common but their sex and their lawsuit,” Scalia reasoned, approvingly citing the words of 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinsk.

The decision Monday does not end the individual discrimination complaints. Those may still proceed.

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