Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2014

Abstract

In one of its most-watched recent cases, the United States Supreme Court struck down a class action alleging that Wal-Mart stores discriminated against female employees in pay and promotion decisions. The plaintiffs alleged that Wal-Mart’s corporate culture and highly discretionary decision-making practices led to sex discrimination on a company-wide basis, and they sought injunctive relief as well as backpay for individual employees. Reversing the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the Supreme Court held in Wal-Mart v. Dukes that the proposed class failed to meet the requirements for class action certification under Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Although the decision was widely understood as raising the bar for all types of class actions, it had particular significance for employment discrimination litigation. Observers wondered if it signaled the end of large-scale employment litigation aimed at structural reform of the workplace, or an implicit rejection of more expansive theories of employer liability under Title VII.