Written by Jacques Jansen
American Supreme Court Rules Against Large Sex Discrimination Class Action:
It is by now a well-known fact that the Americans populate a litigious society, in which each individual protects and enforces his / her individual rights through a maze of courts, from district level to state courts and eventually, should the judges of that court agree to hear a matter, the Supreme Court.
What is maybe not so well-known is that American attorneys act more as solicitors than anything else. Very few American jurists end up becoming the salted trial lawyers we enjoy watching in action on our TV sets.
What most of those solicitors are very good at is creating class action lawsuits, in which hundreds if not thousands of plaintiffs act against the same defendant by means of one single suite. The firm(s) involved raise the capital for such a suite from investors, who anticipate a rather high rate of return on investment, should the suite succeed. Frankly it is more of a gamble than an investment, all of the legal opinions obtained aside.
On 21 June 2011 the American Supreme Court in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes rejected a sex discrimination class action of 1.5 million women against Wal-Mart. The opinion held that there was not enough “glue” to make the individual claims into a class action. Although the ruling is unfavourable to workers, the Court cited one of its cases where an employment discrimination class action consisted of 334 persons. Implicit in this ruling is that a class that size could still proceed after this ruling. How much larger an employment discrimination class can be is unclear.
Quoting a lower court judge, the Supreme Court stated that class members “held a multitude of different jobs, at different levels of Wal-Mart’s hierarchy, for variable lengths of time, in 3,400 stores, sprinkled across 50 states, with a kaleidoscope of supervisors (male and female), subject to a variety of regional policies that all differed. . . . Some thrived while others did poorly. They have little in common but their sex and this lawsuit.”
Clearly the firm which conceived of this class action, and who no doubt invested millions in so doing, let their capitalist instincts get the better of them.
I for one cannot fathom sufficient factors present in the relationship between 1.5 million employees and a single employer that would keep such an action on track.