The Supreme Court has ruled this morning that the class-action suit brought by approximately 1.5 million female workers against Walmart cannot go forward. According to CNN, the ruling is not a ruling on the merits of the case, but simply a decision that “sweeping class-action status that could potentially involve hundreds of thousands of current and former female workers was simply too large.” Daniel Fisher here explains in a bit more detail that the court ruled that the case failed the test of commonality; that is, there was insufficient evidence that all members of the class were ill-treated specifically because of gender-bias.
Now, I understand that this is a huge case, and I would not envy anyone the job of sorting through distributions of any settlement or remuneration. However, it seems to me that precisely because of the huge number of people that the case impacts, its merits have to be heard. Perhaps this particular class action suit is not the right mechanism for that, but it seems essential that some avenue to evaluate these claims be found. I’m particularly concerned by the implication that when too many workers together demand consideration of alleged injustices against them, the claims are too large to be considered. Doesn’t this imply that widespread discrimination is not discrimination? If a company like Walmart ends up being untouchable simply because of its size, there is far too much room for injustice.
And, by the way, Walmart is far from alone in this. In fact, according to this article at Bloomberg, 20 other companies with an interest in class-action gender-bias legislation supported Walmart at the Supreme Court. If the big companies are looking out for one another in this, who is looking out for the workers?