The Leadership Conference is working diligently to see that Tom Perez is confirmed as U.S. Secretary of Labor. Perez is an eminently qualified public servant and consensus builder who has dedicated his career to ensuring that all individuals are treated fairly and have the opportunity to succeed. He has served with integrity and distinction at the local, state and national level, compiling an outstanding record of achievement.
Supreme Court Hears Oral Arguments in Wal-Mart Class Action Case
March 28, 2011 - Posted by Tyler Lewis
Tomorrow, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, an employment discrimination class action lawsuit. Civil rights groups are watching the case closely because the Court’s decision could limit the use of “class action” lawsuits and make it harder to bring large-scale discrimination cases.
A class action is a type of lawsuit brought when many plaintiffs with similar claims join together and bring one suit, rather than many individual cases. Class action lawsuits are brought on behalf of all individuals who are in the same situation, except for those who opt-out of the lawsuit. The class in Dukes is the largest ever in an employment discrimination case.
The case originated in 2001 when Betty Dukes, a then-54-year-old Wal-Mart employee, and several other current and former female Wal-Mart employees, filed a sex discrimination lawsuit alleging that the company discriminated against women in pay and promotion decisions. In 2004, a district court certified the class, representing more than 1.6 million women employees and former employees of Wal-Mart, allowing it to go forward. It is the largest civil rights class action suit against a private employer in U.S. history. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court’s decision in April 2010.
The question before the Supreme Court is not whether or not Wal-Mart discriminated against the plaintiffs, but whether or not the lawsuit can go forward. The issues the Supreme Court will consider focus on the size of the class and the form of relief available to the women.
Civil and human rights groups believe that class action lawsuits are an important way to allow individual employees to be able to gather the resources and the evidence to challenge company-wide discrimination. If the Supreme Court reverses the lower court’s decision to certify the class, it would undermine the protections intended by class action rules and federal employment discrimination laws.
“This case goes to the heart of efforts to eradicate discrimination in the workplace through Title VII, the federal law that bans sex-based discrimination in employment,” said Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women’s Law Center. “The Supreme Court has long held that employees may proceed together to challenge a corporate policy that empowers managers to discriminate—indeed, it is only by permitting employees to proceed collectively and overcome the barriers to bringing thousands of individual lawsuits that Title VII’s purpose will be achieved.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights joined with a number of civil rights groups led by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in filing an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs in the case.
The civil rights amicus states that “Wal-Mart’s stance would unnecessarily constrict access to the class action as a viable vehicle for challenging broad-scale discrimination, contrary to congressional intent and well-established practice and precedent.”