By now, you’ve likely heard that today, in a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court has ruled that a sex discrimination lawsuit waged on behalf of some 1.6 million women against Wal-Mart Inc. may not proceed as a class action, potentially saving the nation’s largest private employer billions in damages.
Additionally, the Court ruled (5-4) that in class action suits against employers, there needs to be “some glue holding together the alleged reasons for” the suit, with Justice Antonin Scalia adding in the majority opinion that such common threads were “entirely absent” in the Wal-Mart suit.
I’ve kept an eye on this case from the beginning, and I’m not confident that common elements in the women’s stories were “entirely absent,” as Justice Scalia asserts, but can understand how the Court ruled the way it did on both counts.
I wholly agree that this case grew into a gigantic hydra, with way too many differing charges to be an effective (and apparently, a legal) class action, and that allowing it to go forward as is would have been a significant blow to employers.
However, my inner feminista squirmed when I read the news, and couldn’t help wondering if the Court would have ruled differently if the suit had been brought by a group of men. Further, the “common thread” standard will make it difficult, if not impossible, for the original women in the Wal-Mart case to remount the suit, not to mention claimants in the future.
And my feminista gets even more antsy when I read in other news today that when a consulting firm asked Urban Outfitters to consider women and minorities when adding to the ranks of its currently seven-member, all-white male board, the company flatly refused.
UO’s response isn’t surprising, given that only 45 companies in the Fortune 500 have boards that are more than 40% women, and only 18 have 40% or more female executive officers.
Still, it’s not hard to see the “common threads” between UO’s stance, the Wal-Mart case and the dearth of women in high-ranking employment positions. Just saying.
But, as always, I want to hear what you think. Share your thoughts on the Wal-Mart ruling specifically and the overall issue of workplace gender bias in the comments.
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