For large companies in general, the ruling in Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes, et al. (10-277) offered a second message: the bigger the company, the more varied and decentralized its job practices, the less likely it will have to face a class-action claim. Only workers who have a truly common legal claim may sue as a group, the Court majority made clear — and, even that claim will require rigorous proof that every single worker suffered from exactly the same sort of bias. Sample statistics and anecdotes won’t do, it said.Ah yes, Justice Scalia. He got it right about the recent Westboro Baptist ruling..but not this case regarding institutionalized discrimination in the workplace.
The Court split 5-4 in shutting down, entirely, a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart that could have affected the legal claims of perhaps as many as 1 million women. The Court’s four most liberal members, including the three women Justices, dissented. The Court also ruled — unanimously — that the women could not bring a claim for backpay, as a remedy for discrimination, under the legal theory their lawyers had used. The ruling was based primarily upon how the Court interpreted a federal court rule — Rule 23. But there were overtones of constitutional protection for companies facing money claims in a class-action case, ensuring that they must be able to mount a full defense in trying to fend off such claims.
The main opinion, controlling both the 5-4 and 9-0 results, was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Court’s most dedicated skeptic about the class-action approach to litigation — a method that allows a large group of individuals, whose own claims may not be worth enough to justify a lawsuit, to join forces as “a class” to pursue grievances that all of them share. Almost certainly the most significant part of the new ruling was the stress it put on the Rule 23 demand that all of those in the class must have a “common” legal claim — in a workplace bias case, each must show, up front, that the bias they claim was targeted at each of them.
The courts four most liberal jurists, three of whom are female, dissented against several of the key parts of the ruling. Again, from SCOTUSblog:
The part of the ruling dealing with the commonality requirement was joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., and Justices Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Anthony M. Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented on that facet of the ruling, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.It's pathetic, to me, that the liberal judges actually found common ground, with the rightwing jurists, that provided them with an out and to rule for the 'corporate culture' of discrimination:
The dissenters argued that the evidence the women’s lawyers had offered “suggests that gender bias suffused Wal-Mart’s company culture.” Their evidence also indicated that the differences in pay and promotions between women and men workers could only be explained by bias, not “neutral variables,” the dissenters added, leaving the clear impression that the dissenters agreed with that assessment.
Repeatedly, the dissenting opinion offered positive reactions to the women’s claims of how the Wal-Mart “corporate culture” actually worked to bolster discretion at the store level, with that discretion exercised predominantly by men influenced by a culture of discrimination.
Because of the Court’s ruling on the “commonality” question, closing the class-action claim against Wal-Mart, this second part of the decision had little practical impact other than clarifying when a class-action lawsuit could pursue a money remedy. The dissenters said they would have left the Wal-Mart women with a further opportunity to try a different section of Rule 23 for their backpay claim, but the majority had scuttled that by ending the class-action case altogether. (emphasis mine)Letting the rightwing protectors/judges of all things 'corporate' win on this case and at every level, is bullshit.
UPDATE: Nancy Pelosi had some..cough..harsh words for SCOTUS today, with regard to this ruling:
The Supreme Court's decision to block a class action lawsuit on gender discrimination against Wal-Mart sets back the fight for gender equality, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said.Damn skippy sista woman. It's bullshit and bravado at our expense. Read her entire statement on The Hill website here.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision sets back the cause of equality for women and for all Americans in the workplace and in our society. And it will make it more difficult for workers to come together to fight claims of gender discrimination," Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Monday.