OPERATIONS

Supreme Court blocks massive job discrimination suit against Wal-Mart

BY Marianne Wilson

Washington, D.C. — In a ruling that may mean new limits on class-action suits, the Supreme Court on Monday ruled for Wal-Mart Stores in the largest sex-discrimination lawsuit in history as it put the brakes on a massive job discrimination lawsuit against the chain.

In a ruling that was not unexpected, the justices overturned a U.S. appeals court ruling that more than a million female employees nationwide could join in the lawsuit, which accused Wal-Mart of paying women less and giving them fewer promotions. The Supreme Court agreed with Wal-Mart that the class-action certification violated federal rules for such lawsuits. It accepted Wal-Mart’s main argument that the female employees in different jobs at 3,400 different stores nationwide and with different supervisors do not have enough in common to be lumped together in a single class-action lawsuit.

The justices said the lawyers arguing the case failed to point to a common corporate policy that led to gender discrimination against workers at thousands of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores across the country. The court ruled unanimously on some aspects of the case and divided on others.

With billions of dollars at stake, the ruling was big victory for Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer.

The case was one of the most closely watched Supreme Court business disputes in some time, in part because the justices hadn’t looked at the standards for certifying a class-action suit in more than 10 years.

The Supreme Court only decided whether the 10-year-old lawsuit can proceed to trial as a group, not the merits of the sex-discrimination allegations at the heart of the case.

Commenting on the ruling, Seyfarth Shaw LLP posted on its Workplace Class Action blog: "The new roadmap is decidedly more favorable to employers than before. Employers should be upbeat in terms of the Supreme Court’s articulation of the required showings plaintiffs must make in the future to certify an employment discrimination class action. In short, the bar has been raised."

To read the full posting, go to workplaceclassaction.com.

In a statement, Walmart said it was pleased with the decision, and noted it has had strong policies against discrimination for many years.

“The court today unanimously rejected class certification and, as the majority made clear, the plaintiffs’ claims were worlds away from showing a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy,” said Gisel Ruiz, executive VP, people, Walmart U.S.

Click here to read our guest analysis on the case.

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OPERATIONS

Report: Best Buy settles employment discrimination case

BY Staff Writer

San Francisco — Best Buy Co. has reportedly agreed to pay $10.2 million in a settlement related to a job discrimination class-action lawsuit, Reuters reported.

The lawsuit, filed in 2005 in U.S. District Court in Northern California, alleged that the retailer discriminated against women, African-American and Latino employees by denying them promotions and more lucrative sales positions. Best Buy has denied any wrongdoing.

According to Reuters, Best Buy will pay up to $10 million for legal fees and costs in the six-year-old case, which was brought by nine people. The company also reportedly will pay $200,000 directly for the settlement, and has agreed to change its personnel policies and procedures to enhance equal employment opportunities at its stores nationwide.

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Kmart laying off 700 appliance workers

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Kmart stores is laying off 700 employees in its appliance departments.

The chain, a division of Sears Holdings Corp., is changing the way it sells appliances, allowing customers to check out appliances at any register rather than going to a dedicated register. Instead of having dedicated appliance-only associates, all Kmart staffers are being trained to answer questions about appliances.

There will also be a 1-800 number customers can call for help.

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