Yahoo! News reports that “the Supreme Court has ruled for Wal-Mart in its fight to block a massive sex discrimination lawsuit on behalf of women who work there. The court ruled unanimously Monday that the lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. cannot proceed as a class action, reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. 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 lawsuit may pursue their claims on their own, with much less money at stake and less pressure on Wal-Mart to settle.”
I earlier explained why the class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart was baseless, how it was based on politically-correct junk science (like a sociology “expert” hired by the women’s lawyers falsely claiming that white male managers are somehow more sexist than managers of other races, which is hard to square with the fact that women have long had more legal rights in European countries than in the Third World, where practices like female infanticide and marriage by abduction occur), how it ignored the plain language of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and was effectively a form of forum-shopping.
Letting a San Francisco judge and jury hear a class-action against Wal-Mart over its employment practices all over the country amounted to forum-shopping, in that the lawyers suing Wal-Mart deliberately picked one of the most liberal, anti-employer jurisdictions in which to file their lawsuit (the San Francisco Bay area) in order to have that idiosyncratic region effectively decide a national case against the company. This effectively deprives Wal-Mart of a representative jury and judge in the case against it, and it inflicts the jurisprudence of one region on an entire national company, to the exclusion of other regions, whose judges would effectively be unable to apply their long-established precedents limiting the use of junk science in discrimination cases, to the Wal-Mart stores within their region. (Judges vary a lot from region to region in how they handle discrimination cases and how they interpret the rules regarding class-action lawsuits.)
Company-wide class-actions are supposed to be brought on the basis of a uniform company-wide policy, and the employees are supposed to have a lot in common with each other, under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. But that was plainly not present in the case against Wal-Mart, known as Wal-Mart v. Dukes. Female Wal-Mart employees have different jobs and salaries, and work in different stores under different managers with different philosophies about hiring and promotion. In the Wal-Mart case, there is no company-wide policy of discrimination. In fact, Wal-Mart has written policies against discrimination. The lawyers for the employees suing Wal-Mart don’t deny that, but claim that it has a practice of giving “discretion” to individual managers about who to hire. But that’s just a fancy way of saying it doesn’t have a policy: that “discretion” is the result of an absence of a comprehensive company policy on how to hire and promote (other than to avoid discrimination). It’s just a pretext for letting the lawyers sue the company on a national basis — rather than a store-by-store basis — in order to shoehorn all discrimination lawsuits against Wal-Mart into one of the most hostile jurisdictions for employers.