It’s the employment law case everyone is watching. A massive, long-running gender pay discrimination class action against Walmart has overcome another hurdle on its way to what could become the largest payout to employees in U.S. history.
At stake: Billions of dollars if a court decides the company illegally discriminated against women by denying them promotions and paying them less than men.
The plaintiffs—potentially 1.5 million women who have worked at 3,400 Walmart stores—got a victory in April when the full panel 9th Circuit Court of Appeals gave the go-ahead for the case to proceed.
Before the 9th Circuit ruling, Walmart had already failed twice in attempts to have the class decertified, once at the district court level and once before a three-judge Appeals Court panel.
The 11 judges of the full 9th Circuit were closely divided, voting 6-5 in favor of the plaintiffs. The decision did limit the class by excluding women who no longer worked for Walmart when the original suit was filed in 2001.
To obtain class status, plaintiffs must prove all of the following:
- It is impractical to try all the cases separately.
- The issues raised by the plaintiffs are similar to all class members.
- The defenses the defendant will use are similar.
- Those representing the class will serve the best interests of the class members.
Apparently, six 9th Circuit judges felt the plaintiffs met that burden. Walmart is expected to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.