Monday, June 20, 2011

Wal-Mart Class Action; Rule of Law

I'm wholly impressed by the Supreme Court's ruling against the gender bias case of Dukes v. Wal-Mart.

First and foremost, the purpose of a class action lawsuit is to bring together individuals who have been similarly injured by the same company for the same reason.

Betty Dukes sued believing that male coworkers at Wal-Mart were getting better promotions and pay than herself and female counterparts. It was shown that the actions may have been due to the individual store where Betty Dukes worked.

I truly feel that it's important to understand that a multinational corporation the size of Wal-Mart has absolutely no way of controlling every decision of every open store throughout their operations. It's infeasible, not possible, stop thinking it is.

Wal-Mart has had a bad rap for years for probably some good reasons and bad reasons. There is nothing in this case that shows every women working since 1998 has been discriminated against and injured due to her sex. I think the biggest flaw of this case was the scope. Had a class action lawsuit been approved, or attempted, to incorporate only certain regions of Wal-Mart stores, it may have been more likely that the Supreme Court would have ruled in favor of the Ninth District's opinion.

Regionally it can be expected that the larger corporation will monitor results and pay grades. It also makes it more likely that each individual would have been harmed in a similar manner. With 1.6 million women included in the court's decisions, there is no way that I can fathom a similar disadvantage to all unless Wal-Mart had a policy that explicitly stated or indirectly caused a bias. With such a policy, the case would have been in favor of the plaintiffs. Instead, the court was shown a policy stating that sex was not to place any bearing on pay decisions or promotions. The policy outlined disciplinary actions to those managers who did use sex as a basis for qualification and pay determination.

Currently, many of the women who had hoped for a better outcome are angered and surprised. Honestly, it's not a surprise. They were facing an uphill battle, not because Wal-Mart has the money to fight the war with the best lawyers, but because they had no basis for their class action.

Now, the women have an opportunity to reorganize into smaller class actions. It may be hard to do without the spirit and having put so much effort into the first case, but it may be worthwhile to some of the women who have worked under discriminatory conditions.

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