The Supreme Court ruled today that a massive class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores Inc. could not move forward. The class-action lawsuit represented 1.6 million female employees of the retail giant, and accused Wal-Mart of systematic and far-reaching discrimination in hiring and promotion. Ironically, the decision by the Court was based on the fact that Wal-Mart had allegedly discriminated against too many women for them to file a valid class-action suit.
The plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit must be bound together by enough common legal injuries to justify their suing the defendant as one entity. The Court ruled that the sheer number of women — representing over 3,800 Wal-Mart stores and various positions within the company — did not have enough in common to pursue a class-action suit. In her dissenting opinion, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote: "Wal-Mart's delegation of discretion over pay and promotions is a policy uniform throughout all stores."
The suit alleged, among other things, that women made up two-thirds of Wal-Mart employees, but held only fourteen-percent of managerial positions. In effect, the decision by the Court sends a message to massive corporations — who employ massive numbers of employees — that blanket discrimination within the company will likely go unpunished.