WASHINGTON, DC – The Supreme Court ruled today on Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes, in a case that considered whether roughly 1.5 million employees of Wal-Mart could file a class action lawsuit claiming discrimination. In a 9 to 0 decision, the Court ruled that the 1.5 million employees could not be considered a class and sue the nation’s larger employer.
Carrie Lukas, managing director:
This is good news for anyone concerned about our economy and joblessness. When companies spend their time defending themselves against lawsuits, they have less money to focus on hiring workers and expanding their businesses.
Discrimination is illegal, and employees who are treated unfairly should have their day in court, but companies also have to have the ability to defend themselves. Lumping together the experiences of 1.5 million employees spread throughout the country in different positions and with different bosses doesn’t advance justice.
Nicole Neily, executive director:
The plantiff’s case relied on statistical evidence that female employees make less on average than men do, but as we’ve seen with more careful analysis, such statistics tend to be misleading. Many factors drive differences in pay. You can’t just assume that all statistical discrepancies are evidence of discrimination.
Kat Ciano, senior fellow:
While there is no legal limit on the number of plaintiffs that can band together to join a class action suit, the group of women seeking certification as a class in the Walmart litigation number over 1.5 million — a group larger than the combined active duty of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard. This is an enormous group forced together despite major distinctions among its members. To qualify as a class action a group must prove that they are “similarly situated.” Simply being female does make members of this group ‘similar.’ Yet for the Supreme Court to ignore distinctions across education levels, job skills, experience, and position sought at Walmart would fundamentally change the way courts understand classes of people, and open the door for a flood of new, ill-conceived class action suits.
Sabrina Schaeffer, senior fellow:
I applaud the Supreme Court for its decision. It was absurd to think that Wal-Mart systematically discriminated against millions of women, regardless of job description or store location. In the aggregate, women are outperforming men in terms of college-graduation rates, advanced degrees, purchasing power and even, in some cities, earnings. Today’s victory helps underscore the fact that the best explanation for differences in pay between men and women comes down to choices – not discrimination. Perhaps now the feminist left will begin to accept that equality under the law doesn’t necessitate gender parity across all professional arenas.
Anna Rittgers, senior fellow:
With today’s ruling, the Supreme Court has affirmed that all Americans deserve due process, whether male or female, employee or employer. The mere allegation of sex discrimination against an employer is not enough to dispense with federal court rules and procedures for bringing forth class action lawsuits.
Class action lawsuits are only proper if the plaintiff class members’ claims against the defendant are sufficiently alike. The only thing uniting these class members was that they were women who had received a paycheck from Wal-Mart.
Proof of a common, company-wide culture of discrimination against women cannot be found in a few individuals’ anecdotal accounts and statistical discrepancies between men’s and women’s pay. Wal-Mart’s company policies, like every other major corporation in America, explicitly prohibit discrimination and encourage diversity among its employees. It should not be easier to file a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart simply because it has deep pockets.
The Independent Women’s Forum (IWF) is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) non-profit educational institution. IWF is dedicated to building support for free markets, limited government, and individual responsibility. IWF seeks to combat the too-common presumption that women want and benefit from big government, and build awareness of the ways that women are better served by greater economic freedom.
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