On the Wal-Mart Class Action Case

Wondering why the Supreme Court’s upcoming decision in Wal-Mart vs. Dukes is so important?

Here’s Scott Lemieux:

Given the compelling stories these individual women can tell, does it matter whether they can file suit collectively? Absolutely, for at least two reasons. First of all, only a class action suit can properly create a record of the systematic gender discrimination at Wal-Mart. Any individual case can be dismissed as an anomaly or a misunderstanding, but the volume of complaints makes clear that gender discrimination was embedded deeply within the culture of the corporation, a very relevant fact for a discrimination suit.

The second reason the is practical. Rights litigation is expensive, and judgments are not likely to be high even if the suit is successful. That’s especially true in employer suits in which employees weren’t well paid. The ability of “similarly situated individuals” — the general standard for bringing a class-action suit — to file collectively makes it more likely that they will be able to obtain good legal counsel and have evidence-gathering capacity they need to afford them a fair hearing. Isolated individuals are also more likely to be intimidated or harassed into dropping legal claims. Forcing all civil rights claims to be litigated on a piecemeal basis can turn civil rights protections into an empty formality.

Our sister organization, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, joined a number of civil rights organizations led by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in submitting an amicus brief in support of the women in the case.  Check it out here.