(Reuters) — The United States Supreme Court has ruled for Wal-Mart Stores in the largest sex-discrimination lawsuit ever, overturning a decision that gave class-action status for female employees seeking billions of dollars.
The justices overturned a U.S. appeals court ruling that more than one million female employees nationwide could join together in the lawsuit accusing Wal-Mart of paying women less and giving them fewer promotions.
The lawsuit, launched by three female employees, claimed their local managers’ discretion over pay and promotions was exercised disproportionately in favour of men. The women sought injunctive and declaratory relief, punitive damages and backpay.
Justice Antonin Scalia said for the court majority the certification of the class was not consistent with a federal rule, and the back-pay claims were also improperly certified.
The women had claimed the discrimination was common to all female employees and corporate culture permitted bias against women. However, “in a company of Wal-Mart’s size and geographical scope, it is quite unbelievable that all managers would exercise their discretion in a common way without some common direction," said the judge.
The members of the lawsuit held several different jobs, at different levels, for variable lengths of time in 3,400 stores across the U.S. with varying regional policies and a mixture of supervisors both male and female. As a result, some employees thrived while others did poorly, said the judge.
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