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Supreme Court Denies Class Certification In Wal-Mart Case

In a split decision issued earlier today, the United States Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and ruled that a group of 1.5 million female employees at Wal-Mart could not be certified as a class action lawsuit.

In reaching this decision, the high Court noted that the 1.5 million female employees needed to show they had common “questions of law or fact.”  On this issue, the Court explained that the lawsuit attempted to sue Wal-Mart for millions of employment decisions in the same lawsuit.  Without some “glue” holding together the allegedly discriminatory reasons for those decisions, however, it would be impossible to say that examination of all the class members’ claims would produce a common answer to the crucial discrimination question.

The Court also noted that, in a company of Wal-Mart’s size and geographical scope, it is unlikely that all managers would exercise their discretion in a common way, without some common direction from the company.  In this instance, the employees’ attempt to show such common direction through the use of statistical and anecdotal evidence “falls way short.”

The high Court also ruled that the plaintiff’s backpay claims were also improperly certified as a class action.

You can read a copy of the Court’s decision here.  You can already read the transcript from the oral arguments for this case here and the Ninth Circuit’s earlier decision here.