Ninth Circuit Upholds Class Certification for Wal-Mart Sex Discrimination Suit
Per Dukes v. Wal-Mart, Inc., --- F.3d ----, 2007 WL 329022 (9th Cir. Feb. 06, 2007):
Plaintiffs' Third Amended Complaint, brought on behalf of six named plaintiffs and all others similarly situated, asserts claims against Wal-Mart for sex discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Plaintiffs alleged that women employed in Wal-Mart stores: (1) are paid less than men in comparable positions, despite having higher performance ratings and greater seniority, and (2) receive fewer--and wait longer for--promotions to in-store management positions than men. Plaintiffs contend that Wal-Mart's strong, centralized structure fosters or facilitates gender stereotyping and discrimination, that the policies and practices underlying this discriminatory treatment are consistent throughout Wal-Mart stores, and that this discrimination is common to all women who work or have worked in Wal-Mart stores.
Plaintiffs seek class-wide injunctive and declaratory relief, lost pay, and punitive damages. They do not seek any compensatory damages on behalf of the class, which is estimated to include more than 1.5 million women. The class encompasses women employed in a range of Wal-Mart positions--from part-time, entry-level, hourly employees to salaried managers.
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For the reasons set forth above, we hold that the district court acted within its broad discretion in concluding that it would be better to handle this case as a class action instead of clogging the federal courts with innumerable individual suits litigating the same issues repeatedly. The district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that Plaintiffs have met the pleading requirements of Rule 23. Wal-Mart failed to point to any specific management problems that would render a class action impracticable in this case, and the district court has the discretion to modify or decertify the class should it become unmanageable. Although the size of this class action is large, mere size does not render a case unmanageable. We deny Plaintiffs cross-appeal, because the district court did not abuse its discretion when it found that backpay for promotions may be limited to those Plaintiffs for whom proof of qualification and interest exists. Finally, we must reiterate that our findings relate only to class action procedural questions; we neither analyze nor reach the merits of Plaintiffs' allegations of gender discrimination.