Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes

Wal-Mart filed a motion to dismiss the regional lawsuit in California. In late September 2012, a federal court gave the plaintiffs the green light to proceed with their gender discrimination class action against the retailer.

In early October 2012, Phipps, et al. v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. was filed in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee, Nashville Division. It seeks an end to Wal-Mart’s discriminatory practices regarding the pay and promotion of female employees in stores throughout the region and punitive damages for the women in the class. Four other regional lawsuits against Wal-Mart Stores will be filed soon.

Case History

In 2001, female employees at Wal-Mart filed a class action sex discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart Stores in the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California. The lawsuit alleges that female employees of Wal-Mart are denied advancement and training opportunities, paid less than men for the same or comparable work, steered to lower wage departments, subjected to a sexually hostile work environment and retaliated against when they attempt to address sex discrimination.

On December 6, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide whether 1.5 million female employees of Wal-Mart can pursue job discrimination claims in one suit or whether they’ll have to split up and file against individual stores. The case—the largest employment class-action suit in the nation’s history—will be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on March 29, 2011.

In addition to providing financial support, AAUW signed an amicus brief, issued press releases, and attended the hearing on March 29, 2011 and co-led a rally in support of the women of Wal-Mart.

In a disappointing 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 20, 2011, that the class could not move forward. Now each woman will have to file her claim individually or in smaller, reformulated class-action groups.

While the ruling does not determine whether Wal-Mart is guilty of gender discrimination, it will have far-reaching effects on class certification in workplace discrimination lawsuits. AAUW strongly believes in protecting the rights of Americans to bring appropriate class-action suits against discriminatory employers. Such cases ensure that all affected workers can right the wrongs against them and stand together in the face of corporate misconduct. Sometimes, class actions are the only way to force a company to change its unfair practices. Class actions also serve as powerful deterrents to keep other employers from engaging in the same practices.

Just two days before the decision announcement, named plaintiff Edith Arana spoke to AAUW members at the National Convention in Washington, DC. Hear her story through the C-Span recording.

The lawyers representing the women vowed to create smaller class actions by region. In November 2011, the lawyers filed the first of these amended lawsuits in the U.S. District Court for Northern California. The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart’s discriminatory practices affected more than 90,000 women currently or formerly employed at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores in four regions in California and nearby states. Betty Dukes, a California resident, is the lead plaintiff, just as she was for the larger lawsuit.

Case Adopted 01/11