WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. that challenges a lower court’s class-action certification in what could be the largest gender-discrimination case in the nation’s history.
The impact of the case might be far-reaching, with Wal-Mart potentially facing billions of dollars in liability.
The high court will not address whether the $400 billion retailer discriminated against hundreds of thousands of female employees in pay and promotions, an allegation the company denies. It will rule on whether claims by individual employees can be combined into a single lawsuit that seeks back pay.
“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has granted review in this important case,” Wal-Mart said. “The current confusion in class action law is harmful for everyone — employers, employees, businesses of all types and sizes, and the civil justice system. These are exceedingly important issues that reach far beyond this particular case.”
The appeal involves a lawsuit filed in 2001 by Betty Dukes and five other female employees alleging the company’s corporate structure discriminated against women regarding pay and promotions, among other accusations. Attorneys for the plaintiffs have since argued that the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer, the largest U.S. private employer with 1.4 million workers and a total of 2.1 million worldwide, is trying to force the women to file individual cases, knowing that most of them cannot afford to bring them on their own.
“We welcome the Supreme Court’s limited review of the class certification in this case,” said Joseph M. Sellers, lead co-counsel for the plaintiffs. “As that decision was based on a vast body of evidence, we are confident that the decision to certify the class was sound.”
Sellers said in an interview that the plaintiffs have “very strong evidence to demonstrate the [discriminatory] practices that we are challenging were consistent throughout the company and that there are questions being adjudicated at trial that are common to the class as a whole.”
Wal-Mart is appealing the 6-to-5 decision of a sharply divided U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which ruled in April that the gender-discrimination complaint could go to trial as a class-action lawsuit. The ruling affirmed a lower court’s certification and also allowed members to seek back pay and other relief.
The retailer, arguing against the class-action certification in court papers filed in August, said the former and current female employees would come from 170 different job classifications “in different stores in different states under the supervision of different mangers,” who could potentially seek billions of dollars in monetary relief. Wal-Mart said the women should file individual lawsuits against separate stores because each store operates as an independent business.
Intel Corp. was among several companies backing Wal-Mart’s position. It said in court papers, “Intel has a significant interest in maintaining proper limitations on class-action procedures,” contending such status can result in workers forcing large settlements.
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye
Did you know: @carlychaikin of "Mr. Robot" has been painting for about a decade? The actress, who plays Darlene on the show, is a self-taught artist who lists Salvador Dalí and Chuck Close as some of her idols. Chaikin told WWD that painting is a form of meditation for her — A much-needed one given the intensity of "Mr. Robot." See a piece Chaikin is working on at WWD.com (📷: @jilliansollazzo) #wwdeye