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Walmart class action thrown out on basis that women do not constitute a class

(35 Posts)
Prolesworth Tue 21-Jun-11 15:12:26

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sunshineandbooks Tue 21-Jun-11 15:27:21

As it's a trial about gender discrimination, surely the claimants don't need to have anything other than their sex in common to be considered a class. confused

I'm angry about it but completely unsurprised. If it had gone through it might have had a profound effect on achieving equality in the workplace and the patriarchy couldn't allow that to happen now, could they. hmm

Dont know much about the legal system in the US but can you appeal a Supreme Court decision?

Was it Walmart that Susan Faludi talked about quite a bit in "Backlash"? That was 30 yrs ago too. Same old, same old!

dittany Tue 21-Jun-11 16:06:55

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AliceWhirled Tue 21-Jun-11 16:43:43

And this is precisely where the individualistic, choice-blah-blah, fail to acknowledge any structures zeitgeist takes us.

dittany Tue 21-Jun-11 17:33:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

joaninha Tue 21-Jun-11 18:09:06

So thousands of women workers don't have enough in common to constitute a class? Only in a capitalist patriarchy ....

Isn't Asda part of Walmart family?

Fenouille Tue 21-Jun-11 18:22:00

" If the class action had been accepted it could have set a precedent for gender discrimination at many corporations, with companies such as Microsoft and General Electric writing to the court expressing their concern." [My emphasis]

I.e. Microsoft and GE have just admitted that they too have discriminatory policies. Or am I simplifying? (TBH, working in a big corporation myself I find it depends very much on the department ethos, but even so I'm angry about the implications of that comment.)

MrsReasonable Tue 21-Jun-11 22:43:19

They didn't say women weren't a class. They said that these women didn't constitute a specific enough class for this lawsuit.

It seems that this was a huge group of women with various complaints about sex discrimination while employed by Walmart - but a case which is a general miasma of possible 'Walmart is sexist' examples just isn't workable, and that is what the court said.

They also made it clear that the individuals were still free to pursue their own cases; they just couldn't do it as a group.

sunshineandbooks Tue 21-Jun-11 23:22:13

I'm not a lawyer but do they all have to have the same 'type' of sex discrimination then? Do they have to fall into categories such as (1) failure to offer promotion because of sex or (2) sexual harrassment?

My only knowledge of class action suits comes from the film Erin Brokovitch I'm afraid, so skewed I'll admit, but even in that case didn't the claimants have a multitude of health complaints? Didn't it just come down to something as simple as health problems caused by polluted drinking water? In which case why can't this be boiled down to discrimination based on gender? Why isn't a long list of a multitude of different complaints showing sexism at play workable? If the argument is Walmart is sexist and there are hundreds of women with examples of how they've fallen foul of it, does it matter that they are all different? Why isn't it valid?

MrsReasonable Tue 21-Jun-11 23:36:52

I think class-action suits have to be based on a specific event or policy or whatever. So in that film, the event is the pollution of the water. But here there is no single event or policy that ties all the claimants/women together, thus they aren't a class and it isn't valid.

It wouldn't be workable because Walmart has the time and money to argue every single example that the claimants state. "Oh, well, perhaps that last example with Mrs Smith about the changing of her shift was unlawful. But this example by Mrs Jones about maternity leave is completely meritless" x1000. Years and years in court, rising legal fees, etc. They all need to have the same example for the case to be workable. I think.

I was really just trying to point out that the thread title is misleading at best and a sensationalist lie at worst.

nooka Wed 22-Jun-11 07:03:08

The judgement of the Supreme court was that the plaintiffs did not have enough in common to pool their claims into a single case, and that to proceed they would need to have significant proof that Walmart had a general policy of discrimination, which the judges said they did not. It's worth noting that although there were only three women bringing the case, the class was for 1.5 million women, dating back over ten years. So a big case with significant ramifications, and lobbying was obviously involved.

For those who are really interested you can read the judgment here: www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/slipopinions.aspx?Term=10

It's quite a technical legal document as these things usually are, but it didn't dismiss the cases, just say they needed to be brought forward on a different basis (ie not all together). It looks like the problem for the case is that Walmart had the right corporate policies in place but allowed local managers to make decisions about promotions etc in a fairly informal way. The discrimination claimed is that corporate culture determined that the advantage would always be given to men. The judges said that wasn't enough for a class action, as there is a rule that there must be a common contention with a similar injury (discrimination isn't enough - cases about pay will be different from those about promotion etc) and they also said that he evidence presented was inadequate (from the description given it certainly sounded pretty thin).

dittany Wed 22-Jun-11 08:26:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Prolesworth Wed 22-Jun-11 09:32:13

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caramelwaffle Wed 22-Jun-11 10:04:46

Very interesting Op: Asda are indeed a Wal-Mart Company.

dittany Wed 22-Jun-11 10:34:25

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dittany Wed 22-Jun-11 10:37:39

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Prolesworth Wed 22-Jun-11 11:54:30

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queenbathsheba Wed 22-Jun-11 12:04:34

Walmart is the biggest retailer worlwide and it's missery spreads across the entire globe from the ivory coast to Asda. Exploiting workers and producers not just women but the worst deal is reserved for non white women.

I think Capitalism is Patriarchy, not sure if others do but Capitalism works women into the ground to create profit for men.

"Women in America are more likely to be poor than men. Over half of the 37 million Americans living in poverty today are women. And women in America are further behind than women in other countries—the gap in poverty rates between men and women is wider in America than anywhere else in the Western world." www.americanprogress.org/issues/2008/10/pdf/women_poverty.pdf

We estimate that Wal-Mart workers in California earn on average 31 percent less than workers employed in large retail as a whole,
www.dsausa.org/lowwage/walmart/2004/walmart%20study.html

I haven't shopped in Asda now for two years!

nooka Fri 24-Jun-11 04:04:42

But the Supreme Court did not judge whether Walmart did or did not discriminate against women. Just that a class action law suit of such a huge size covering a wide range of different possible discriminatory action was not the appropriate way to proceed. It did not rule that Walmart could not be sued. I thought from the discussion in the ruling (especially the dissenting opinion) the evidence presented really didn't look very strong - for example the sociologist's report just said that discrimination was possible.

But workers protection in the States is very weak outside of unionised environments. The culture is very much more pro-business than in the UK so this finding is not unexpected. I just don't think it was driven by sexism.

sunshineandbooks Fri 24-Jun-11 08:22:52

Hmmm. I think it was driven by money and greed and that if holding on to money means hurting women, the attitude is 'so what'. It's still sexism even if money rather than misogyny was the driving force.

dittany Fri 24-Jun-11 08:56:08

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MoreBeta Fri 24-Jun-11 09:10:30

MrsReasonable - I agree with your interpretation. I have been following the case more or less every day for the last few weeks in US business news.

However, I think it would have been helpful if the Supreme Court had given an indictaion or guidance of the types of classes it would have accepted. Even if the Walmart women ('the Plaintiffs) were broken down into sub classes, there would stil be a lot of plaintiffs in each of those subclasses.

It does not seem to me to be good justice if the Plaintiffs now have to work up a new case with all their complaints broken down into new sub classes and then find the Supreme Court rejects those sub classes as well. In the end the Plaintiffs may well have valid complaints, we just don't know because the evidence has not been fully heard, but they are left trying to guess what sub classes or groups the courts will accept in order to allow them to present that evidence.

Another route might be to allow the Plaintiffs representatives to present a series of example cases and then the courts examine the other womens evidence in short form and decide which example they are closest to and then hear the evidence in full for each example type and award compensation on that basis if the case is found in favour of the Plaintiffs.

MoreBeta Fri 24-Jun-11 09:12:12

nooka - I agree with you too.

sunshineandbooks Fri 24-Jun-11 10:13:03

The trouble is I think Walmart are well aware that even if they admitted liability for each and every case of sexism brought before them on an individual basis it would be cheaper and have less implications for future structure and profit than if they take on (and lose) a class action. If suits have to be broken down to an individual basis, many many plaintiffs will simply disappear and Walmart know this. Then they can claim that each case is simply an isolated incident and treat it as such. A successful class suit would force them to admit that something about company structure and policy is actively enforcing discrimination on the basis of sex.

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