Walmart Rehearing has Major Implications

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?

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6 Comments

  1. stuffqueerpeopleneedtoknow.wordpress.com
    Posted March 23, 2009 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I agree. More and more, corporations are running the world we live in, and if this is successful it will be more and more difficult to fight them.
    http://stuffqueerpeopleneedtoknow.wordpress.com/

  2. JupiterAmmon
    Posted March 23, 2009 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    what are we doing about this injustice?

  3. RedPersephone
    Posted March 23, 2009 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    I’m not an expert, but I think another issue with doing the cases individually is that it would make it much harder to “prove that there has been a pattern or practice of discrimination.” When there are 1.6 million women who have experienced discrimination, it’s pretty clear that it’s a company-wide practice.

  4. everybodyever
    Posted March 23, 2009 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

    The size of the putative class does NOT mean that 1.6 million women have experienced discrimination at Wal-Mart’s hands, claim they have experienced it or are even involved in the litigation.
    It just means that 1.6 million women, according to the class complaint, have worked for the company in the U.S. since 1998. Lead plaintiffs’ counsel estimate that the class could reach that size, should all those women actually file claims for a portion of the eventual settlement. Obviously they wouldn’t all do so.

  5. borrow_tunnel
    Posted March 23, 2009 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    Precisely why I’ve made it my New Year’s resolution not to shop at Wal*Mart anymore. And I’ve kept it. I just remind myself of the sexism and horrible human rights violations in 3rd world companies. I suggest anyone interested in their douchebaggery go to Google videos and type in “WalMart: the High Price of Low Cost.”
    Question though: I’ve been hearing about their sexism since I was like 12 and I’m 21 now, so are they taking a long effing time to go through with the case, or is this another one?

  6. Doug S.
    Posted March 24, 2009 at 3:14 am | Permalink

    Don’t you mean “Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price”?

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