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Walmart Lawsuit: 9th Circuit Allows Class Action to Move Forward

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By Jason Beahm on April 30, 2010 10:45 AM

This week, the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled 6-5 that a class action Title VII Discrimination lawsuit against Walmart can go forward. The Walmart discrimination case was filed on behalf of several female employees for sex discrimination under the 1964 Civil rights Act. The 9th circuit left it to the lower court to resolve the question of whether Walmart is subject to punitive damages if it loses the case. The retailer has argued that this lawsuit should be brought by individuals.

The 137 page opinion, which included a highly critical dissent concluded,

...we hold that the district court acted within its broad discretion in concluding that it would be better to handle some parts of this case as a class action instead of clogging the federal courts with innumerable individual suits litigating the same issues repeatedly.

Given the tentative nature of the district court's trial plan, we decline to address Wal-Mart's due process and manageability challenges to that plan. We note, however, that the district court has the discretion to modify or decertify the class should it become unmanageable. Although the size of this class action is large, mere size does not render a case unmanageable.

The dissent, which Paul Elias of the Associated Press called "blistering," concluded:

No court has ever certified a class like this one, until now. And with good reason. In this case, six women who have worked in thirteen of Wal-Mart's 3,400 stores seek to represent every woman who has worked in those stores over the course of the last decade--a class estimated in 2001 to include more than 1.5 million women.

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