Monday, June 20, 2011

BREAKING: SCOTUS Reverses Class Certification in Wal-Mart Class Action

Moments ago, the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Wal-mart v. Dukes, which would have been the largest Title VII class action ever... except the Supreme Court reversed the 9th Circuit and held that certification of the class was inconsistent with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) governing class actions.

I'll need to dig into this thing later today, but a preliminary skimming yields that the Court found that the potentially millions of Title VII claims did not have enough in common:
  • "Without some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together, it will be impossible to say that examination of all the class members’ claims for relief will produce a common answer to the crucial question why was I disfavored."
  • Sociologist's testimony that could not even indicate percentage of employment decisions affected by alleged "stereotypical thinking" was "worlds away from 'significant proof' that Wal-Mart 'operated under a general policy of discrimination.'"
  • Granting supervisors broad discretion is insufficient to establish a discriminatory policy because "[i]n a company of Wal-Mart’s size and geographical scope, it is unlikely that all managers would exercise their discretion in a common way without some common direction."
  • Wal-Mart's actual written policy forbids sex discrimination and provides for penalties for violation of it.
On a separate issue, the Court also held that: "Claims for monetary relief may not be certified under Rule23(b)(2), at least where the monetary relief is not incidental to the requested injunctive or declaratory relief."

That's my quick-take. I may have more later, after I've had an opportunity to sit down and really read through it and think about it.

Pictured: Justice Scalia, author of the Court's opinion.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.

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