In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case in which nearly 1.5 million women who had worked for Wal-Mart tried to sue the company for sex discrimination in a nationwide class-action lawsuit. In that case, Dukes v. Wal-Mart, the court ruled that the group of women was too large and contained too many non-specific and dissimilar claims for the lawsuit to be appropriately tried as a class action.
The court's ruling did not make the women's sex discrimination claims disappear, however. Indeed, a new class action has now been filed under the same name. This time, a smaller group of women (including the same named plaintiff) representing the California region has filed the lawsuit, and several other regional versions are on their way to the courts.
The California group seeks to represent a class of around 45,000 women who work or used to work for Wal-Mart and claim they were denied promotions and raises because of their gender.
Although the Supreme Court case did leave open the possibility that a smaller class of more similarly-situated women could be certified, Wal-Mart insists that each woman should be required to file separately.
"These claims are not suitable for a class certification because each plaintiff is so different," said the retail giant's attorney.
The group of women, however, believes that they haven't been treated as unique individuals by Wal-Mart. In the new case, they're bringing statistical evidence that the company has an observable pattern of sex discrimination in pay and promotions.
"By identifying specific policies, explaining the common mode of exercising discretion, and providing statistics at the store, district and regional level, plaintiffs have met the burdens created by the Supreme Court," reads their brief requesting class action status.
Other regional sex discrimination class actions have been initiated against Wal-Mart in Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin.
Source: Thomson Reuters News & Insight, "Wal-Mart plaintiffs, in second try, hope to distinguish case," Carlyn Kolker, April 17, 2013