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U.S. Supreme Court Issues Decision on Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination Class Action Lawsuit

On June 20, 2011, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court reversed a federal district court's 2004 decision certifying a nationwide class of female employees alleging sex discrimination in the company's pay and promotion practices under Rule 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The decision follows rulings by the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010, and a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit in 2007, both of which had affirmed class certification in large part.

In a 27-page majority opinion written by Justice Antonin Scalia, the Supreme Court held that the district court improperly certified the Dukes class under both Rules 23(a) and 23(b)(2) of the Federal Rules. Four justices (Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan) dissented regarding the Court's Rule 23(a) analysis, disagreeing with the majority about the proper threshold standards to apply in evaluating class certification. However, all justices unanimously agreed that the district court ultimately should not have certified the class under Rule 23(b)(2)'s more specific requirements.

As employers everywhere breathe a collective sigh of relief, what should they still be on guard for, and what should they take away from the Supreme Court's decision and analysis?

To learn more about the decision and its implications for employers, please continue reading Littler's ASAP, And the Class Certification Battle is Won: A Unanimous Supreme Court Reverses Rule 23(b)(2) Class Certification in Dukes v. Wal-Mart, by Margaret Parnell Hogan and Danielle L. Kitson.

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