Wal-Mart v. Dukes

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  • Workplace Equality and Economic Empowerment
  • Sex-Based Classification
  • Joined Amicus Brief
2011

Determined whether Wal-Mart's female employees should be treated as a nationwide class in a Title VII suit against their employer.

Summary of the Case

Wal-Mart v. Dukes consists of claims brought by three female Wal-Mart employees, on behalf of themselves and a nationwide class of 1.5 million female employees, alleging Wal-Mart violated Title VII, the federal law that prohibits employment discrimination based on sex. The plaintiffs also claim that local hiring managers’ discretion has had an unequal impact on female employees and that Wal-Mart’s company-wide policy leads to disparate treatment of women.

The federal district court in 2004 ruled in favor of plaintiffs’ request that the case be certified as a class action on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of similarly situated women who are or have been employed by Wal-Mart.  In April 2010, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld class certification. Wal-Mart decided to take the issue to the Supreme Court.

Our Role in the Case

Legal Momentum signed onto this amicus curiae brief to the Supreme Court in March 2011. Legal Momentum supported Wal-Mart's female employees, who argue that they should be certified as a class in their Title VII suit against the company.

Decision

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court recently ruled that Wal-Mart’s female employees cannot sue their employer for pay discrimination as a nationwide class. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan, and Sotomayor, dissented, in part.

The women of Wal-Mart demonstrated staggering pay and promotion disparities between male and female workers. In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that while women constitute 70 percent of Wal-Mart’s hourly workforce, they fill only 33 percent of management positions and female employees are paid less than men in every region. “The salary gap widens over time even for men and women hired into the same jobs at the same time,” she wrote.