Walmart is trying to convince an appeals court that the 1.6 million women who joined a lawsuit against them for discrimination on the basis of sex should be considered individually, not as part of a class action lawsuit. The Wall Street Journal reports:
A ruling in the case by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco could have broad implications for future discrimination lawsuits, according to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which last week filed a brief supporting the class certification that Wal-Mart opposes…The EEOC says that if Wal-Mart’s argument is successful, it would effectively preclude claims for punitive damages and back pay in cases in which plaintiffs — or the commission itself — prove that there has been a pattern or practice of discrimination.
Class action is important for many reasons, especially in cases of sex discrimination in the workplace. For starters, it cuts down on legal fees (one giant case vs. 1.6 million smaller ones) and speeds up due process so that people see justice and move on with their lives.
But on a more psychological level, class action status allows an aggrieved population, in this case women workers, to stand together and seek parity through their collective strength. Enduring the bureaucratic battles, media attention, and scrutiny of this kind of legal procedure with a giant corporation is basically soul-killing if done alone.
The solidarity inherent in a class action suit is not only crucial for these plaintiffs, but imperative legal precedent moving forward. What good will the brand spankin’ new Lilly Ledbetter Act do if no one has the resources or the stamina to stand up against their employers all alone?