Wednesday, April 13, 2011
The Supreme Court began hearing a bid by Wal-Mart to stop as many as 1.5 million female workers from achieving class-action status in the largest sexual discrimination case in US history. Rejection would pave the way for claims that could cost Wal-Mart, the biggest private employer in the United States and the largest retailer in the world, tens of billions of dollars in back-pay and punitive damages. Even more significantly, it would set a new precedent for labor discrimination cases and open the door to a possible flood of class-action suits from women, minority groups and people with disabilities. At the heart of the matter is whether the nature of the discrimination against the Wal-Mart women is uniform enough to be treated in one single case. A final Supreme Court ruling is expected before the end of June.