A federal judge in California has ruled that plaintiffs in a gender discrimination lawsuit against Walmart Inc. must file their cases individually, rather than altogether in class action litigation. The decision wasn’t especially surprising, given a similar ruling made by a federal court in Florida earlier this year. Although this will create challenges for the individual plaintiffs, it could ultimately mean higher damage awards for some of the individuals.
This case, Renati v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., involved of a group of 18 women who had originally been part of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case of Dukes et al v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which certified a class of 1.5 million workers (more than any other in history), all asserting that the retail giant was in violation of Title VII for disparate pay and benefits to female workers compared to their male counterparts. Women alleged that not only were they paid less than men, they were also overlooked for promotions and raises that were handed over to men less-qualified. One plaintiff was reportedly told that a certain position she sought was “a guy’s job.”
However, the SCOTUS reversed itself on the class certification issue in 2011, finding that while all the women shared the same cause of action predicated on gender discrimination claims, there was no common practice, policy or set of facts applicable to all plaintiffs. There was simply too much variation from case-to-case. Therefore, cases would have to be filed either individually or in smaller groups. Continue reading