In 2011, the United States Supreme Court ruled that a class-action lawsuit against Walmart was too big to go forward as a single lawsuit. The story obviously made national news. We previously discussed the Supreme Court issues. But, that ruling had to do with a legal issue, and did not bar the plaintiffs from continuing to seek relief in court. In the aftermath of the high court ruling, many smaller sex discrimination lawsuits were filed on a more regional basis.
The 2011 decision involved a class action workplace discrimination lawsuit, which involved as many as 1.5 million current and former workers at the giant retailer. When the court ruled that the class was too large-employment law attorneys began to file smaller, more regional lawsuits.
The Supreme Court ruling did not rule on the merits of the sex discrimination claims, but merely on the size of the class. Walmart argued that too many people were included, each bringing different types of allegations of sex discrimination.
Regional class-action lawsuits have been filed in at least five states, including California. The lawsuit filed in Northern California is directly related to the lawsuit that had previously made it up to the Supreme Court. Of the several regionalized lawsuits, the California class action against Walmart is further in the process. The plaintiffs in California filed a motion Monday seeking class-action status from the court (the same issue that previously made it to the nation's high court in the 2011 ruling).
The case is more streamlined in the number of plaintiffs, and based upon regionalized allegations. Walmart says that the case involves the same arguments as before. However, the plaintiffs say that the new, smaller class differs sufficiently from the prior case. A hearing in the California case is expected this summer, which could be an important step toward helping to define the scope of class action lawsuits going forward.
Source: Thomson Reuters News and Insight, "Wal-Mart plaintiffs, in second try, hope to distinguish case," Carlyn Kolker, April 17, 2013