The Supreme Court agreed Dec. 6 to decide whether Wal-Mart Stores Inc. must face what could be the largest workplace class-action lawsuit ever certified.
The case—Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Betty Dukes et al.—involves charges that Bentonville, Arkansas-based Wal-Mart paid female employees less than men in comparable positions despite higher performance ratings and seniority. The six female employees who brought the lawsuit, initially filed in 2001, also allege that women received fewer and waited longer for promotions to in-store management positions than men.
The lawsuit seeks injunctive and declaratory relief, lost pay and punitive damages.
The case, which by some estimates encompasses more than 1.5 million members, is said to be the largest workplace class-action lawsuit ever certified.
In 2007, a divided three-judge appeals court panel of the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco upheld a lower court’s 2004 ruling that granted class-action status to women who work or have worked in one or more of Wal-Mart’s 3,400 stores at any time since 1998.
But on April 26 of this year, an en banc 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 6-5 to uphold most aspects of the district court’s ruling in a technical opinion. It concluded that the proposed plaintiffs in the case had enough in common to create a class despite varying jobs the women held—which ranged from part-time, entry-level employees to full-time, salaried managers—and the thousands of sites at which they worked.