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Supreme Court Limits Wal-Mart Sex Bias Case
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Dabei seit: 06.09.2012
he lawsuit could have involved up to 1.6 million women, with Wal-Mart facing
potentially billions of dollars in damages MARK SHERMAN The Associated Press
June 20, 2011 WASHINGTON (AP) -- 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 nations biggest companies. The justices all agreed that the
lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. could not proceed as a class action in
its current form, reversing a decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in San Francisco. By a 5-4 vote along ideological lines, the court
said there were too many women in too many jobs at Wal-Mart to wrap into one
lawsuit. 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. Two of the named
plaintiffs, Christine Kwapnoski and Betty Dukes, attended the argument.
Kwapnoski is an assistant manager at a Sams Club in Concord, Calif. Dukes is
a greeter at the Walmart in Pittsburg, Calif. In a statement, Wal-Mart said,
The court today unanimously rejected class certification and, as the majority
made clear, the plaintiffs claims were worlds away from showing a companywide
discriminatory pay and promotion policy. Dukes and Kwapnoski said they were
disappointed in the ruling, but vowed to push ahead with their claims. Both
women spoke on a conference call with reporters. We still are determined to
go forward to present our case in court. We believe we will prevail there,
Dukes said. All I have to say is when I go back to work tomorrow, Im going to
let them know we are still fighting, Kwapnoski. Marcia D. Greenberger,
co-president of the National Womens Law Center, said the court has told
employers that they can rest easy, knowing that the bigger and more powerful
they are, the less likely their employees will be able to join together to
secure their rights. The high courts majority agreed with Wal-Marts argument
that being forced to defend the treatment of female employees regardless of
the jobs they hold or where they work is unfair. Justice Antonin Scalias
opinion for the courts conservative majority said there need to be common
elements tying together literally millions of employment decisions at once.
But Scalia said that in the lawsuit against the nations largest private
employer, That is entirely absent here. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing
for the courts four liberal justices, said there was more than enough uniting
the claims. Wal-Marts delegation of discretion over pay and promotions is a
policy uniform throughout all stores, Ginsburg said. Business interests lined
up with Wal-Mart while civil rights, womens and consumer groups have sided
with the women plaintiffs. Both sides have painted the case as extremely
consequential. The business community has said that a ruling for the women
would lead to a flood of class-action lawsuits based on vague evidence.
Supporters of the women feared that a decision in favor of Wal-Mart could
remove a valuable weapon for fighting all sorts of discrimination. Said
Greenberger: The women of Wal-Mart, together with women everywhere, will now
face a far steeper road to challenge and correct pay and other forms of
discrimination in the workplace. 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. The company also has
said its policies prohibit discrimination and that it has taken steps since
the suit was filed to address problems, including posting job openings