June 29, 2011
On June 20th, 2011, the United States Supreme Court threw out the class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart brought by 1.5 million female employees alleging sex discrimination in violation of Title VII. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. is a landmark decision for federal class-action employment discrimination lawsuits. In a 5-4 decision, Justice Scalia wrote the majority opinion for the Court holding that the women of the putative class did not provide sufficient evidence to demonstrate Wal-Mart operated under a general policy of discrimination in order to satisfy the commonality prong to permit class certification.
The ruling from the United States Supreme Court has many believing it will make it more difficult for plaintiffs to bring employment discrimination class actions in federal court. Nina Totenberg for National Public Radio reports that the president of the National Women’s Law Center Marsha Greenberger refers to the decision as having “a triple whammy of a disaster effect for those who are trying to fight discrimination in the workplace.” The NPR Morning Edition, “High Court Limits Wal-Mart Discrimination Case” is available on Westlaw at 2011 WLNR 12367309.
Although the decision may make it more difficult to maintain these types of class actions in federal courts, many states have more liberalized views on these types of suits. Additionally, the United States Supreme Court clearly stated in a unanimous decision, Smith v. Bayer, that class actions in state law can proceed even though they could not be maintained in federal court.
Westlaw.com and WestlawNext have several employment law treatises which give a state by state analysis of employment discrimination laws with annotations. For example, Part II of the Employment Discrimination Coordinator (EDC) lists employment discrimination law in the fifty states and other jurisdictions. Other helpful treatises include Employment Law: A State-by-State Compendium (DRI-EMPSTATE) and Employment Coordinator (EMPC).
Since the Wal-Mart decision, many companies and corporations may be thinking of filing summary judgment motions, motions to dismiss, or for de-certification of a class based on the court’s ruling. Try the following search to track any decisions, briefs, or filings on Westlaw.com:
To view the petition for certiorari for Wal-Mart v. Dukes, any filed briefs, and transcripts of oral arguments, simply go to the case on Westlaw.com at 2011 WL 2437013 and scroll all of the way to the bottom to access these documents. On WestlawNext, simply click on the Filings tab once on the document.