Earlier today, the Supreme Court accepted a high-profile case that will likely have a substantial impact on employees all over the country. Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, is being sued for unlawfully discriminating against its women employees. It is a class-action suit on behalf of the corporate giant’s 1.5 million women employees. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the case could proceed as a class action.
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Wal-Mart’s appeal. As the Washington Post reports:
[The Court] will be looking at the question of whether a single suit is proper when alleging charges of pay discrimination and lack of promotions spread across thousands of stores in every region of the country. …
Business groups say certification of a class action puts enormous pressure on a company to settle regardless of whether the charges can be proved, because of the cost of the litigation and the potential award at stake. In the case of Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, the amount could be billions of dollars.
But civil rights groups say class-actions are the most effective way of making sure a business ends discriminatory practices and pays a price for its actions.
Large corporations, with resources dwarfing those available to the average individual, clearly benefit when their victims are unable to pool resources through a class action. Indeed, this is not the only case this term where the Supreme Court is being asked to dismantle this vital tool, one that has proved time and again to be the only way to hold corporate wrongdoers accountable.
We will learn this spring whether the Roberts Court will continue its trend of twisting the law in order to benefit powerful corporations over the rights of individuals.