Oral argument: Mar. 29, 2011
Appealed from: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (Apr. 26, 2010)
PROCEDURE, CLASS ACTIONS, DISCRIMINATION, MONETARY RELIEF
Respondent Betty Dukes and other women have brought a Title VII employment discrimination case against Petitioner Wal-Mart Stores. The United States District Court for the Northern District of California certified a class action comprised of all women employed at any Wal-Mart store since December 26, 1998 who may have been or will be subjected to Wal-Mart’s allegedly discriminatory practices and policies. Wal-Mart appealed, challenging the class certification, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Wal-Mart now appeals to the Supreme Court, arguing that the class certification does not meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a). Wal-Mart also claims that class certification was improper under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2) because the employees primarily seek monetary compensation in the form of back pay, and Rule 23(b)(2) does not authorize certification of claims seeking monetary relief. On the other hand, the employees assert that they meet the requirements for class certification under Rule 23(a) because all female employees face the same Wal-Mart policies and share the common issue of discriminatory treatment under those policies. The employees further argue that class actions certified under Rule 23(b)(2) are not precluded from seeking monetary relief, and deny that back pay is a form of monetary compensation. The Supreme Court’s decision will affect the evidence required to bring an employment discrimination class action suit, the relief available to plaintiffs in a class action, and employers’ willingness to settle to avoid liability in class actions.