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NPR-Supreme Court Limits Wal-Mart Discrimination Case

Publication Date: 
June 20, 2011
Nina Totenberg

Professor Deborah Hensler is quoted by NPR's Nina Totenberg on the Walmart v. Dukes decision, and why she sees the ruling as a "pretty comprehensive defeat" for civil rights plaintiffs.

The U.S. Supreme Court has thrown out the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in American history — a nationwide class action lawsuit brought against Wal-Mart on behalf of 1.5 million female employees.

The 5-to-4 decision arguably leaves room for smaller lawsuits against Wal-Mart, based on alleged discrimination in a single store, region, or state. But for all practical purposes, Monday's ruling makes any nationwide class action lawsuit impossible.

By almost any marker, Monday's ruling is the most significant employment discrimination decision in more than a decade.


Stanford law professor Deborah Hensler, an expert on class action suits, says she sees Monday's ruling as a "pretty comprehensive defeat" for civil rights plaintiffs.

"I read this decision as saying" that unless a company has "a policy that is clearly discriminatory on [its] face, which is hard to imagine in this day and age, that suits against discriminatory practices will now be much more difficult to pursue," Hensler said.