Instead they have been asked to pursue action against Wal-Mart individually if they want to.
The court accepted Wal-Mart’s argument that the women work in diverse jobs in stores across the US and do have not enough in common for a class action.
The court ruling overturned a judgement by a lower appeals court that 1.5 million women who had worked at Wal-Mart retail stores since 1998 could unite in the class action suit.
The women, led by a group of named plaintiffs, sought back pay and punitive damages for the class of women, saying the company passed female employees over for promotion and paid them less.
Their legal action relied on statistical evidence about pay disparities between male and female employees and anecdotal reports of individual cases of discrimination.
The court ruled that the women could not show common “questions of law or fact” that held for all the women in the proposed class.
“Here, [the group of women employees] wish to sue about literally millions of employment decisions at once,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.
“Without some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together, it will be impossible to say that examination of all the class members’ claims for relief will produce a common answer to the crucial question ‘why was I disfavoured.’”
Mr Scalia also noted that Wal-Mart’s written policy did not allow gender discrimination, and did not have any testing procedure or evaluation method that could be shown to be biased.
The plaintiffs statistics in support of their case were; Women comprise 92% of Walmart’s cashiers, but only 14% of Walmart’s store managers;
Female hourly workers earned up to 37 cents less per hour than their male counterparts; The average female Walmart manager earned $14,500 less than their male counterpart in 2001.
Statistical trends and anecdotal evidence definitely point to a problem within Wal-Mart regarding gender equality. However proving there is a problem is vastly different to proving a specific point of law.
It is surprising that the class action got as far as it did given the diversity of the experiences of the plaintiffs. Sometimes in America these cases like this seem to be allowed to proceed for a time to allow a political point to be made.