Posted On: June 21, 2011 by Michael J. Hassen Email This Post

Bookmark and Share

Class Action Defense Cases–Wal-Mart v. Dukes: Supreme Court Reverses Class Action Certification Of Largest Labor Law Class Action In History Holding Sex Discrimination Claims Lacked Commonality

Class Action Treatment of Sex Discrimination in Promotion Claim Against Wal-Mart not Proper because Commonality Requirement not Met and because Rule 23(b)(2) Class Inappropriate given Monetary Relief Sought Supreme Court Holds

Plaintiffs filed a putative labor law class action against Wal-Mart Stores, alleging systematic discrimination against women in pay and promotion in violation of Title VII. Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 564 U.S. ___ (June 20, 2011) [Slip Opn., at 1]. The class action sought injunctive and declaratory relief, but also sought monetary damages in the form of backpay. Id. The theory underlying the class action against Wal-Mart was not that the company had “any express corporate policy against the advancement of women” but, rather, that Wal-Mart’s local managers “[exercised] discretion over pay and promotion…disproportionately in favor of men, leading to an unlawful disparate impact on female employees.” Id., at 4. As the Supreme Court explained, “The basic theory of the[] case is that a strong and uniform ‘corporate culture’ permits bias against women to infect, perhaps subconsciously, the discretionary decisionmaking of each one of Wal-Mart’s thousands of managers – thereby making every woman at the company the victim of one common discriminatory practice.” Id. The district court certified a nationwide class action against Wal-Mart consisting of approximately 1.5 million current and former female employees, id., at 1. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the class action certification order, id. The Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed.

By way of background, the Supreme Court noted that Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the United States, operating 4 types of retail stores (Discount Stores, Neighborhood Markets, Sam’s Clubs and Superstores) that are “divided into seven nationwide divisions, which in turn comprise 41 regions of 80 to 85 stores apiece,” each with 40-53 separate departments and anywhere 80-500 employees. Wal-Mart, at 1-2. Decisions regarding pay and promotion “are generally committed to local managers’ broad discretion, which is exercised ‘ in a largely subjective manner.’” Id., at 2, quoting 222 F.R.D. 137, 145 (N.D. Cal. 2004). With respect to the individual named plaintiffs, Betty Dukes began working for Wal-Mart in 1994 and was eventually promoted to customer service manager before being demoted all the way down to greeter due to “a series of disciplinary violations.” Id., at 3. Dukes admitted that she violated company policy, but claimed that her demotions were “retaliation for invoking internal complaint procedures and that male employees have not been disciplined for similar infractions.” Id. Christine Kwapnoski worked at Sam’s Club “for most of her adult life” and held various positions, “including a supervisory position,” but she claimed that her male manager yelled at her and other female employees (but not at men) and told her to dress better, wear makeup and “doll up.” Id. Edith Arana worked at Wal-Mart from 1995-2001, and in 2000 repeatedly asked her store manager about management training “but was brushed off.” Id. She followed internal complaint procedures and was advised to bypass her store manager and apply directly to the district manager for management training, but she elected not to do so. Id. Arana was fired in 2001 for failing to comply with the company’s timekeeping policy. Id.

Continue reading "Class Action Defense Cases–Wal-Mart v. Dukes: Supreme Court Reverses Class Action Certification Of Largest Labor Law Class Action In History Holding Sex Discrimination Claims Lacked Commonality" »

Posted On: June 11, 2011 by Michael J. Hassen Email This Post

Bookmark and Share

New Labor Law Class Action Filings Maintain Top Spot Among Weekly Class Actions Filed In California State And Federal Courts

To assist class action defense attorneys anticipate the types of cases against which they will have to defend in California, we provide weekly, unofficial summaries of the legal categories for new class action lawsuits filed in California state and federal courts in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, San Diego, San Mateo, Oakland/Alameda and Orange County areas. We include only those categories that include 10% or more of the class action filings during the relevant time frame. This report covers the time period from June 3 - 9, 2011, during which time 52 new class actions were filed in these courts. Labor law class actions retained the top spot, but still do not commonly reach the 50% mark of past years. During this reporting period, for example, only 23 of the new class actions filed involved employment-related claims (44% of the total number of new class actions filed) involved employment-related claims. The only other category to break the 10% threshold involved class actions alleged violations of California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL), which includes false advertising claims, with 7 new filings (13% of the total number of new class actions filed).

Posted On: June 4, 2011 by Michael J. Hassen Email This Post

Bookmark and Share

Third Week Of "Normal" Class Action Filings Finds Drop In Labor Law Class Actions Though They Again Claim Top Spot Among Weekly Class Actions Filed In California State And Federal Courts

As a resource to California class action defense attorneys, we provide weekly, unofficial summaries of the legal categories for new class action lawsuits filed in California state and federal courts in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento, San Diego, San Mateo, Oakland/Alameda and Orange County areas. We include only those categories that include 10% or more of the class action filings during the relevant time frame. In past years, the number of new class actions filed in these California state and federal courts generally fell within the range of 40-50, but throughout most of this year, that number has been significantly higher. This report covers the time period from May 27 - June 2, 2011, during which time 42 new class actions were filed in these courts. This represents the third straight week in which the number of new class actions filed in these California courts was much more in line with the total number of class actions filed in past years. Only 16 of these 42 class actions, however, involved employment-related claims, representing a relatively low 38% of the total number of new class actions filed. (As regular readers of this blog know, in past years labor law class actions routinely accounted for more than half of the number of new class actions filed each week.) The only other categories to break the 10% threshold involved class actions alleging violations of California's Unfair Competition Law (UCL), which includes false advertising claims, with 9 new filings, representing 21% of the total number of new class actions filed this past week, and class actions alleging violations of federal securities laws, with 5 new filings, representing 12% of the total number of new class actions filed.