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Monday, December 6, 2010

Supreme Court Accepts Landmark Wal-Mart Discrimination Case















Supreme Court Accepts Landmark Wal-Mart Discrimination Case

Alabama@Work
By Tommy Eden, Attorney
On Monday December 6, 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear arguments in one of the largest job bias class in history.
In Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes the justices directed the parties to brief and argue two questions involving the certification of a class of about 1.5 million past and present female Wal-Mart employees. Six women, serving as class representatives, accuse the nation’s largest private employer of discriminating against female workers in pay and promotions. Interestingly the merits of the case are not before the justices. Rather, the Court will focus on whether the class was properly certified. The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted class certification in June 2004, and the 9th Circuit affirmed.
Wal-Mart contends that the class was improperly certified as to its size and type and argues that the plaintiffs, who are seeking back pay, were certified under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2), used for classes seeking injunctive relief. Wal-Mart contends that the Plaintiffs should have been required to meet the tougher standards for classes seeking damages. As part of its grant of review, the justices ask the parties to address whether claims for money damages can be certified under 23(b)(2) as well as whether certification under that rule was consistent with the certification requirements of Rule 23(a).
Also look to see if the justices raise the case of Hertz Corporation v. Melinda Friend (United States Supreme Court February 24, 2010) where the high court, in a rare unanimous decision, settled 51 years of splits in the federal circuits and held that a corporation's "principal place of business" for purposes of federal jurisdiction is its "nerve center," typically where its headquarters is located. The Nerve Center for Wal-Mart is Bentonville, AK, not Northern California.

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901. Blog at www.alabamaatwork.com