SCOTUS in session.

Our Supreme Court has been rendering some decisions today, and while they threw out a lawsuit they should, I am going to focus on their decisions to if not outright dismiss or side with the defendant – Wal-Mart – to drastically limit the scope of the suit to real cases and what it should have been from the start, thus making it very unlikely that the plaintiffs will win this case in which they tried to win big money by broadly accusing Wal-Mart as being a corporation that has a culture of bias against female employees, where the evidence isn’t there to back that up.

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Monday blocked a massive sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart on behalf of female employees in a decision that makes it harder to mount large-scale bias claims against the nation’s biggest companies.

The justices all agreed that the lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cannot proceed as a class action in its current form, reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. But they split 5-4 along ideological lines over whether the plaintiffs should in essence get another chance to make their case.

The lawsuit could have involved up to 1.6 million women, with Wal-Mart facing potentially billions of dollars in damages.

Now, the handful of women who brought the case may pursue their claims on their own, with much less money at stake and less pressure on Wal-Mart to settle.

The ruling could make it much harder to mount similar class-action discrimination lawsuits against large employers.

The majority agreed with Wal-Mart’s argument that being forced to defend the treatment of female employees regardless of the jobs they hold or where they work is unfair.

Yeah, I felt this was about a bunch of lawyers hoping to score big from the start. Now the scope of the suit is going to be based on the claim of these handful of women that they were done a disservice because of gender, the court system can hear arguments, and a jury can decide. If the lawyers keep their goal of going after Wal-Mart for the big bucks instead of representing their clients, then they deserve to lose the case as well.

If they are smart enough to roll back their end goal, I am still going to side with Wal-Mart on this. I simply find it hard to believe Wal-Mart would do anything that would threaten its profits. And sex discrimination, not because of the law suits that it can result in, but because it would be a stupid policy to deny the better talent the management jobs or promotions, would hamper their pursuit of the all mighty dollar. Oh, I understand that people can make counterintuitive and dumb moves that in the end hurt them more than those they target for whatever reason, but I doubt Wal-Mart would do that.

The lawsuit, citing what are now dated figures from 2001, said that women are grossly underrepresented among managers, holding just 14 percent of store manager positions compared with more than 80 percent of lower-ranking supervisory jobs that are paid by the hour. Wal-Mart responded that women in its retail stores made up two-thirds of all employees and two-thirds of all managers in 2001.

I am going to side with Wal-Mart on this based on the simple fact that they wouldn’t be stupid enough to make such a claim if they then would have to defend it in court. Of course, you could say the same about the ambulance chasers on the other side, but I have often found they are given so much more leniency to make up things when they target big corporations for shakedowns, that one has to keep that in mind. Anyway, this suit ought to be more interesting now.

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  1. richtaylor365

    reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

    Odd, you don’t see that everyday.

    While I can always count on SCOTUS to provide non stop consternation wrt their 5-4 decisions (some things are so obviously clear to me, why the division?) they usually get things more right then wrong.

    This was clearly not class action worthy, unlike say thousands of people owning stock in a company where management cooked the books or thousands of people getting sick on tainted Tylenol, each woman will have here own unique set of facts that would either prove or disprove discrimination.

    I simply find it hard to believe Wal-Mart would do anything that would threaten its profits.

    Most settlements in this area involve middle management folks that were operating outside of policy, either the head muckity mucks did not know what was going or ignored the symptoms.

    SCOTUS just widened the scope of Miranda involving juveniles, another no brainer as far as I’m concerned yet justices that I have an affinity for went the other way, curious.

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  2. Miguelito

    Yeah, this seemed like the right decision to me. They were specifically saying (as I understand it) that you can’t just flip to a class action on the fly, more then saying they couldn’t have started it as a class action if they’d wanted from the get go.

    I also don’t really buy the numbers the women are claiming. Though, based on my own experiences at Wal-Mart, most of their employees are morons anyway that don’t deserve any kind of managerial power. I’d be willing to bet out of that many complaining women (1.6mil? Really?) that most aren’t getting promotions for a reason (and that goes for the men too).

    The only Wal-Mart that I can even bear to return to is one in NH, when I’m on vacation back there, because it’s the only one I’ve been to with semi-decent employees, it’s kept clean and stocked, and isn’t always packed with hordes of people. It’s really one of the only decent stores in the area anyway.

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