Wal-Mart v. Dukes – The Fate of the Class Action Lawsuit
By: Lily Moallem on April 12, 2011
On Tuesday, March 29th, the Supreme Court heard oral argument on one of the biggest class-action lawsuits in decades – Wal-Mart Stores v. Dukes. Dukes involves a class of plaintiffs which, at its largest, numbered 1.5 million women who currently or previously worked for Wal-Mart. Though the class now consists of roughly 500,000 women, it remains one of the largest, if not the largest, class action suit ever filed. The Court’s decision will likely produce interpretations of Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that will greatly impact the nature of the class action lawsuit.
Dukes is a civil rights suit, in which the plaintiffs allege company-wide gender bias, and seek injunctive relief, back pay and punitive damages. Though only one plaintiff, Betty Dukes, originally filed the suit in 2001, the number of plaintiffs quickly ballooned. In 2004, a federal district judge approved a Rule 23(b)(2) class of plaintiffs, which encompassed “all women employed at any Wal-Mart domestic retail store at any time since December 26, 1998, who have been or may be subjected to Wal-Mart’s challenged pay and management track promotions policies and practices.”