Labor & Employment

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What Do You Need To Know About Wal-Mart v. Dukes?

June 30, 2011

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Not much, when all is said and done …

Don't play taps for the class action lawsuit yet. The Supreme Court's recent decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes—in which a majority declined to certify the largest class action discrimination case in history—received a great deal of media attention but, in the end, it's unlikely to affect the way you do business or whether you get sued.

There's no doubt this is a landmark case. Wal-Mart will define and redefine class action and discrimination cases for years to come. The decision restricts class actions and their remedies, and may well have an impact on our nation's public policy on discrimination in the workplace.

That said, it was an anomaly for a number of reasons. In the first place, Wal-Mart is the largest employer in the country; as one law professor put it, a company “too big to assail.” The size of the class was a legitimate and overwhelming issue, and the Supreme Court continues to signal it does not approve of mega-class actions, either in courts or arbitrations.Dukes also was a hybrid, in which the plaintiffs' attorneys wanted to obtain individual settlements for millions of employees while only bringing one suit, thereby denying the employer the right to challenge individual actions. Finally, the case attempted to bring a disparate impact case in a manner that had not been tried before.

What's the lesson? The same as it always is: Try not to get sued.

It seems to us that the best use of your reading time is to skip the Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision and instead study each of the California Wage Orders that apply to your industry and employees. That's the reading that could determine whether you become a defendant in a lawsuit.

For more information, please contact:

Alfonso Estrada

213-395-7633 Direct Phone
213-395-7618 Fax

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