Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wal Mart wins

The stacked right wing Supreme Court voted in a 5-4 decision in favor of the corporate giant Wal Mart.

"A decade ago, a woman named Betty Dukes filed a lawsuit against her employer, Wal-Mart Stores, alleging the company had blocked her efforts to advance. The case mushroomed into a class-action lawsuit involving 1.5 million female employees and alleging a pervasive pattern of gender discrimination. It also became one of the most closely watched business cases in years. 

The justices sided with Wal-Mart. They unanimously agreed that the women couldn't seek back pay in this case, because the plaintiffs' lawyers had used the wrong legal standard for qualifying for monetary claims. The court's conservative majority also decided 5-4 that the class was too big to fairly evaluate. "

Too big to be held accountable?

Significantly, the majority never ruled on the fairness of Wal-Mart's employment practices, which have earned plenty of public criticism over the years. The court never decided whether Wal-Mart fostered a corporate culture that resulted in lower pay and fewer promotions for women, either. The justices simply put the brakes on the idea that 1.5 million women could automatically share the same class-action status as potential victims of discrimination. 

These women need more in common than their gender, the court said. They need the smoking gun of a specific corporate policy -- or they need to form smaller and more manageable groups of plaintiffs than 1.5 million women (including hundreds of managers) working in different jobs for different lengths of time at 3,400 stores. 

Legal analysts and scholars offered no immediate consensus about the impact of this case. It will likely take years and additional cases for its full impact to be known. For now, we'll say this: If the court becomes openly hostile to plaintiffs in class-action lawsuits, Congress may need to intervene. A central purpose of class-action litigation is to empower a group to seek justice when the individuals of that group lack the means to do so. Ordinary citizens need to retain the ability to sue collectively, whether they are consumers relying on safe products, patients depending on good medicine or low-wage employees hoping for a fair shake at work. 

No big surprise

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS
C. J., and KENNEDY, THOMAS, and ALITO, JJ., joined, and in which GINS- 
BURG, BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined as to Parts I and III. 

GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, 
in which BREYER, SOTOMAYOR, and KAGAN, JJ., joined. 

We have a lockstep Supreme court, in which Scalia, Roberts, Kennedy, Thomas & Alito
the right wrong wing faction that consistently votes in favor of corporations. 

Of course the corporation is not going to have a published policy that discriminates against women, the cases & discrimination just happened. 

The plaintiffs are free to go after Wal Mart in individual lawsuits, as opposed to class action, but that is a real David VS Goliath situation. 
Because a person working for Wal Mart, making low low wages can ill afford a lengthy lawsuit against a huge corporation that has it's own, in-house legal department. 

Walmart has 8,970 stores in 15 countries, under 55 different names. The company operates under its own name in the United States, including the 50 states. It also operates under its own name in Puerto Rico. It operates in Mexico as Walmex, in the United Kingdom as Asda, in Japan as Seiyu, and in India as Best Price. It has wholly owned operations in ArgentinaBrazil, and Canada. 

 Wal-Mart's EEOC filings showed that female employees made up 65% of Wal-Mart's hourly paid workforce, but only 33% of its management. Just 35% of its store managers were women, whereas 57% were at comparable retailers.

I have to wonder what will happen with Betty Dukes  Wal Mart job after this Supreme Court ruling? This would have been the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in U.S. history. 

Last week, Dukes was again organizing shopping carts and chatting with customers as a greeter at the Wal-Mart on Loveridge Road, where she has worked for 17 years.
The woman behind the lawsuit started as a part-time cashier with the Pittsburg store in 1994.

She became a full-time cashier a few months later, then was promoted to customer-service manager in 1997.
Dukes said she noticed a pattern in which men were trained for the jobs she wanted while women were often ignored. She said she later learned that a male coworker was making 50 cents per hour more than she was for doing the same job, even though he had worked at Wal-Mart for a much shorter time.
Her unhappiness with some of the Pittsburg store's managers boiled over in 1999, when she filed a complaint against them after she was demoted to cashier.
"If the justices rule against the class action, attorneys will still take Dukes' case to trial", Seligman said.
Despite the acrimony that led to the suit, Dukes said she had always enjoyed working at Wal-Mart.
She said she would be happy when the litigation was over.
"When we first filed the suit, I thought it might go on for seven years and [Wal-Mart] would settle," she said. "We didn't take Wal-Mart to the Supreme Court; they took us."
The case has gone on for 10 years. 


nonnie9999 said...

this might actually backfire on walmart. people won't stop suing, because there's money in it for lawyers. one huge case might be lost, but if thousands of smaller cases takes its place, then it will cost walmart more in attorney fees (both their own and those of anyone who wins their lawsuit, at least in a lot of states) and in paying people to be deposed rather than working. it's not very good p.r. for walmart either.

Fran said...

The problem w the little individual lawsuits is the underpaid employees can;t afford them. The class action allows all the little people to join together against the Goliath.

I just hope they don;t dump those employees now. Betty Dukes was promoted to manager, then demoted to cashier & is now a greeter.
She is still making less $ then when all this started. The Supreme court is stacked right now........... & corrupt with people like Clarence Thomas & his lack of ethics.

Christopher said...

The SCOTUS decided corporations are essentially living and breathing entities.

Now, corporations are treated like people.

enigma4ever said...

unreal.....great post.....but shitty situation....and somehow I was thinking over one million women that sheer number was so impressive and brave that would be a good thing...but alas...Bush's fine picks did him proud....and corporations are not equal to people....they are valued more than people by the Elected in DC and now by the SCOTUS.....sick...really it is....

Fran said...

Christopher~ Sadly, yes.

Enigma~ Each variation of the gender discrimination all falls under the same category- men were promoted over women, paid more than women there with longer standing w the company.

I wonder the the SC majority would have voted differently if MEN were being discriminated against in the same way... if they would have decided men are traditionally the main wage earner therefore should not be paid less?
Or would they have towed the "bowing to corporations line" either way?

We will probably never know since the pay bias traditionally has women getting the short end of the stick. Women who may well be the main wage earner in the house, or that job is the sole income source.

In the end Betty Dukes is a greeter, not a manager (as she previously was) & making less money. She has been with the company for 17 years.

You summed it up well- a shitty situation.