On June 20, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Wal-Mart in a grueling 11-year case dubbed the largest civil rights suit in American history. In 2000, then 54-year-old Betty Dukes sued the massive corporation after realizing she’d never had an opportunity for advancement training and promotions like her male colleagues.
However, the court ruled that Dukes – and about 1 million other female Wal-Mart employee co-plaintiffs – did not effectively prove they’d been discriminated against in the same way.
“This is yet another example of the Supreme Court siding with large corporations to limit access to the courts for individuals seeking justice,” said Wade Henderson, CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, in a press release. “Those without the means to hire an attorney or pursue a claim rely on class action lawsuits to level the playing field and change the policies and practices of elite corporations. The court’s sharply divided ruling has made it more difficult for these individuals – and all Americans – to defend themselves against unscrupulous employers, predatory corporations, and discriminatory laws.”
Likewise, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), blasted the court’s decision and urged the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to pursue an alternative ruling. “EEOC realizes that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the Wal-Mart employees to file individually, because of the expense of litigation. I hope that the EEOC will look at the hundreds of class action cases that have been brought on a nationwide basis and at the possibility of EEOC-initiated pattern and practice cases to give as much relief to the Wal-Mart women as the facts may justify.”
In a statement, Wal-Mart said, “We are pleased with today’s ruling and believe the Court made the right decision…Wal-Mart has a long history of providing advancement opportunities for our female associates and will continue its efforts to build a robust pipeline of future female leaders.”