Walmart, the world's largest retailer, is asking the Supreme Court to block a gender discrimination suit that could have close to 1.5 million current and former female employees as parties to the class action. A 6-5 decision by a lower court gave the green light for what would be the largest class action against a private company in U.S. history, reports Business Week.
Attorney for the plaintiffs, Brad Seilgman says, "This ruling upholding the class in this case is well within the mainstream that courts at all levels have recognized for decades. Only the size of the case is unusual, and that is a product of Walmart's size and the breadth of the discrimination we documented." No stranger to the courtroom, Walmart settled a suit with the company's hourly workers (stemming from violations of break policies) for $640 million in 2008.
All females that have worked for chain since 2001 are eligible to opt-in to the Walmart class action that alleges paying female employees less than their male counterparts, giving fewer female promotions, and forcing females to wait longer for the promotions they did get. Walmart argued that allowing this case to go forward sweeps, "aside the need to determine millions of individual issues by relieving plaintiffs of their burden of proving intent and injury and by stripping Walmart of its right to assert crucial defenses."
The potential gender discrimination suit could cost the company billions of dollars in damages. At this point, there has only been a certification of the sizeable class, and no ruling on the merits of the action -- a technical victory if you will. That being said, certifying a class of this size (and proving to the court that it could handle such a large case) was one the bigger hurdles facing the plaintiffs in bringing this case that was originally filed in 2001.