The US Supreme Court issued its much anticipated decision in Dukes v. Walmart on June 20, 2011. Over a million past and present female Walmart employees alleged sexual discrimination against the giant retail chain in this case. However, the Supreme Court ruled that all of the women’s allegations were not similar enough for the case to proceed as a class action against Walmart. Instead, the female employees will likely have to file separate or smaller-scale lawsuits. This ruling significantly reduces Walmart’s liability, but by no means is it the end for the particular sexual discrimination complaints at issue.
As Attorney Murphy points out, Walmart dodged a bullet in this case but the company remains exposed to further litigation. Attorney Murphy notes that Walmart can reduce this exposure by viewing the Supreme Court’s decision as a management opportunity. Indeed, Walmart executives have an opportunity to re-examine the evidence of this case, which in Attorney Murphy’s opinion demonstrates that the company must implement bottom-up changes in store management structure. By implementing a system where not only women but all lower level associates can participate in the grievance process, Walmart’s policies will be more proactive rather than reactive to litigation.
Notwithstanding the procedural implications of Dukes v. Walmart, Attorney Murphy believes his clients will be positively impacted by the substantive nature of this case. Significantly, the Supreme Court provided additional guidance on the evidentiary requirements involved in these types of lawsuits. Indeed, Attorney Murphy looks forward to asserting these points in court on behalf of his clients.