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Supreme Court Blocks Walmart Class Action Bias Suit

6/20/2011 02:48:38 PM Eastern

Washington - The Supreme Court today
rejected a 10-year-old class action sex-discrimination suit against Walmart brought
on behalf of 1.6 million female employees.

Writing for the conservative
majority, Justice Antonin Scalia argued that it would be impossible to
determine in a single case whether each woman was the victim of discrimination,
especially since hires and promotions are determined by regional and store managers.

He added that statistical evidence presented
by the plaintiffs "falls well short" of showing a corporate policy of bias.

A minority led by Justice Ruth Bader
Ginsburg agreed that class action status was inappropriate for this type of
case, but said evidence does suggest that a culture of gender bias existed at
the company.

The decision overturns a ruling by a
California appeals court that allowed the suit to proceed over Walmart's
objections.

The case, Wal-Mart v. Dukes, was originally filed
10 years ago by Walmart worker Betty Dukes and five female colleagues who
claimed they were passed over for promotions and paid less than male employees.
The suit was the largest sex-discrimination case in history and could have cost
Walmart billions of dollars in back pay, while opening the door to similar
litigation at other large corporations.

The plaintiffs could still pursue
Walmart through smaller class actions.

In a statement, Walmart U.S.
executive VP Gisel Ruiz said, "We are pleased with today's ruling and believe the
Court made the right decision ... 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. Walmart has a long history of providing advancement
opportunities for our female associates and will continue its efforts to build
a robust pipeline of future female leaders."

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