Wal-Mart v. Dukes ruling actually protects women – and all Americans
The Supreme Court ruling in Wal-Mart v. Dukes upheld key legal standards. Loosening the rules for bringing a class action sex discrimination suit could jeopardize the legal system that holds everyone equal in the eyes of the law.
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The sociological study concluded that Wal-Mart’s “strong corporate culture” makes it “vulnerable” to “gender bias.”Skip to next paragraph
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The statistical analysis compared, among other things, the number of women promoted to management with the percentage of women working in hourly positions. It concluded, “that there are statistically significant disparities between men and women at Wal-Mart…[that] can be explained only by gender discrimination.”
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The anecdotes were from approximately 0.008 percent of class members relating their experience in 7 percent of Wal-Mart’s stores. Betty Dukes, Edith Arana, and Christine Kwapnoski, for example, offered alleged accounts of firings, demotions, and comments they claimed were motivated by sex and race discrimination.
But the plaintiffs sought to represent millions of women, all holding different positions, working in different departments, under different managers, in different stores, located in different cities and states.
Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, found the evidence offered by the plaintiffs insufficient, and said that the plaintiffs “wish to sue about literally millions of employment decisions at once.” The Supreme Court found that the lower courts were wrong to allow the case to proceed as a class action and dismissed the lawsuit.
Ruling protects women and all Americans
The Court’s ruling, of course, does not prevent women from alleging employment discrimination by Wal-Mart stores or supervisors. They must simply offer evidence of specific discriminatory practices so that each case can be decided on its merits. That is the burden of any plaintiff, and courts shouldn’t open the floodgates to broad litigation just because the plaintiffs are women.
Loosening the rules to make it easy to bring a class action discrimination suit could actually jeopardize the system that holds everyone equal in eyes of the law. By maintaining the requirement that plaintiffs in a class action share a common and specific complaint, the Court will help prevent abuses of the legal system, something that women – and all Americans –should applaud.
Anna Rittgers is a Virginia attorney and senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.