A California court has shown, yet again, that it’s in the service of big business this past week when it decided that California Wal-Mart employees cannot sue for sex-based discrimination as a group. The court cited that the women did not have enough in common to establish a class certification.
In 2001, a group of women from various Wal-Mart stores filed a claim in San Francisco claiming that they had been denied promotion and pay. The lawsuit alleged that the retail giant’s employment policies created a structure that made the disparate treatment of women systemic.
Unfortunately, the actions of the California court seem to be establishing a precedent for courts across the country. A claim in Texas was recently dismissed that alleged similar facts.
“Companies, like Wal-Mart, are encouraged to discriminate against their employees because individualized lawsuits are much less costly than paying a fair or non-discriminatory wage,” commented James Kauffman, an attorney with the Securities and Business Litigation Department at Levin, Papantonio, “Unfortunately, rulings that strike down class treatment leave the victims with no access to a realistic or effective means to make companies accountable for their misconduct.”
Individual proceedings still pend in many states. The dismissal of the California and Texas courts did not pass judgment on the women’s claims that they were discriminated against. The decision set forth only that women failed to meet the requirements necessary to establish a class.
The ability to establish a class for the purpose of litigation is powerful as it can unify discovery efforts. The court’s decision to deny the women the establishment of the class in this case denies them the ability to enjoy those benefits.
The allegations of unfair labor practices on the part of Wal-Mart are not uncommon. Earlier this year Wal-Mart threatened to stop plans to build 3 stores in Washington D.C. because the city was considering a bill that would have forced the retailer to pay slightly above minimum wage.