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Is biggest-ever wage bias case headed to Supreme Court?

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The Supreme Court may rule on the pay discrimination lawsuit everyone is watching.

Walmart last week asked the High Court to overturn a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in April that allowed a class-action suit alleging widespread discrimination against women to proceed.

At stake: Potentially $1 billion or more if the case goes forward and a court decides the company illegally discriminated against female employees.

The class of potential plaintiffs includes more than 1.5 million past and current female Walmart employees. It is the largest pay-bias class action ever.

The plaintiffs in the case—Dukes v. Wal-Mart—say lack of training and promotion opportunities mean women who work at Walmart earn 5% to 15% less than male employees.

The issue in Walmart’s appeal isn’t whether the company discriminated, but whether such a large group can band together in a class action.

The Supreme Court will likely decide whether to take the case later this year.

The retail giant is hoping the Supreme Court can break a zero-for-three record in Dukes v. Wal-Mart. 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 panel of the 9th Circuit.

Why this case is important: If the Supreme Court rules in the plaintiffs' favor, look for more supersized class-action lawsuits. Remember: While a lawsuit from one employee may cost you a few thousand dollars, a class-action suit on behalf of many employees could result in damages worth millions ... or more.

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