Yesterday the Ninth Circuit upheld (mostly) a California District Court opinion certifying a nationwide class action against retail giant Wal-Mart. The classes and sub-classes could encompass as many as 1.5 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart, who may be entitled to billions in back wages and punitive damages. Not to mention the attorney’s fees and costs.
The case was filed in 2001 by The Impact Fund, a Bay Area non-profit organization that takes on large scale civil rights related litigation. The lawsuit alleges that Wal-Mart pays female employees less than their male counterparts (in violation of equal pay laws), and promotes women more slowly than men (in violation of Title VII).
What’s so interesting about this behemoth 137 page decision? Not a lot unless you’re an attorney who practices class action law. But the decision does represent a clear acknowledgement on the part of the judiciary that just because you’re an astonishingly gigantic and absurdly wealthy company doesn’t mean that you can’t be called to court to account on a wholesale basis for your (alleged) bad deeds. At least if you’re sued in the Ninth. Without question, Wal-Mart will be looking to the Supremes for a reversal.