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Walmart Faces Long Battle On Sex Discrimination, Despite Supreme Court Ruling

Publication Date: 
January 25, 2012
Huffington Post - Business
Lila Shapiro

Professor Ralph Richard Banks spoke with Lila Shapiro of the Huffington Post on the important role that class action lawsuits play in bringing cases to court that may otherwise not be pursued.

Sex discrimination is alive and well at Walmart, say lawyers who have interviewed thousands of female employees in the years since Betty Dukes and a handful of others first sued the company alleging widespread gender bias.

Although the Supreme Court ultimately overturned the Dukes case last summer -- siding with Walmart that the women did not share enough in common to qualify as a class in what would have been the largest class action discrimination suit in history -- plaintiffs' lawyers haven't given up, and neither have the women.


Class-action suits were previously the best tool a worker had to fight discrimination at work. While individual suits are expensive and can be exceedingly difficult to prove, a class-action vehicle allowed workers to band together to fight the corporate powers that be. If the courts continue to rule in Walmart's favor, it will be a significant blow to working-class Americans, legal experts say.

"As you make it more difficult for people to win in larger groups and require them to file suits based on smaller ones, economically it becomes unfeasible for some people to make their way to court at all," said Ralph Richard Banks, a professor at Stanford Law School who specializes in employment discrimination law. Ultimately, Banks said, this means that, regardless of the merits, "cases go away."