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Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes

Supreme Court of the United States

March 29, 2011, Argued; June 20, 2011, Decided

No. 10-277

Opinion

 [*342]  [**2547]  Justice Scalia delivered the opinion of the Court.

We are presented with one of the most expansive class actions ever. The District Court and the Court of Appeals approved the certification of a class comprising about one and a half million plaintiffs, current and former female employees of petitioner Wal-Mart who allege that the discretion exercised by their local supervisors over pay and promotion matters violates Title VII by discriminating against women. In addition to injunctive and declaratory relief, the plaintiffs seek an award of backpay. We consider whether the certification of the plaintiff class was consistent with Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 23(a) and (b)(2).

Petitioner Wal-Mart is the Nation's largest private employer. It operates four  [****8] types of retail stores throughout the country: Discount Stores, Supercenters, Neighborhood Markets, and Sam's Clubs. Those stores are divided into seven nationwide divisions, which in turn comprise 41 regions of 80 to 85 stores apiece. Each store has between 40 and 53 separate departments and 80 to 500 staff positions. In all, Wal-Mart operates approximately 3,400 stores and employs more than 1 million people.

 [*343]  Pay and promotion decisions at Wal-Mart are generally committed to local managers' broad discretion, which is exercised “in a largely subjective manner.” 222 F.R.D. 137, 145 (ND Cal. 2004). Local store managers may increase the wages of hourly employees (within limits) with only limited corporate oversight. As for salaried employees, such as store managers and their deputies, higher corporate authorities have discretion to set their pay within preestablished ranges.

Promotions work in a similar fashion. Wal-Mart permits store managers to apply their own subjective criteria when selecting candidates as “support managers,” which is the first step on the path to management. Admission to Wal-Mart's management training program, however, does require that a candidate meet certain  [****9] objective criteria, including an above-average performance rating, at least one year's tenure in the applicant's current position, and a willingness to relocate. But except for those requirements, regional and district managers have discretion to use their own judgment when selecting candidates for management training. Promotion to higher office--e.g., assistant manager, co-manager, or store manager--is similarly at the discretion of the employee's superiors after prescribed objective factors are satisfied.

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564 U.S. 338 *; 131 S. Ct. 2541 **; 180 L. Ed. 2d 374 ***; 2011 U.S. LEXIS 4567 ****; 79 U.S.L.W. 4527; 112 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 769; 161 Lab. Cas. (CCH) P35,919; 94 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P44,193; 79 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1460; 22 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 1167

WAL-MART STORES, INC., Petitioner v. BETTY DUKES et al.

Subsequent History: On remand at, Remanded by Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 659 F.3d 801, 2011 U.S. App. LEXIS 19496 (9th Cir., Sept. 23, 2011)

Related proceeding at Isaac v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 56114 (E.D. La., Apr. 26, 2016)

Related proceeding at Forbes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 2323 (S.D. Fla., Jan. 4, 2018)

Related proceeding at Radtka v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 116188 (S.D. Fla., July 12, 2019)

Related proceeding at Colson v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 176823 (S.D. Fla., Oct. 10, 2019)

Related proceeding at Monda v. Wal-Mart, Inc., 2019 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 179560 (S.D. Ohio, Oct. 17, 2019)

Related proceeding at Feyka v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73045 (W.D. Pa., Mar. 16, 2020)

Related proceeding at Allen v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97803 (D. Colo., June 3, 2020)

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT.

Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., 603 F.3d 571, 2010 U.S. App. LEXIS 8576 (9th Cir. Cal., Apr. 26, 2010)

Disposition: Reversed.

CORE TERMS

certification, injunctive, backpay, declaratory, predominate, disparate, monetary, quotation, discriminatory, regional, female, discretionary, gender, statistical, dissimilarities, incidental, anecdotes, classwide, hiring, notice, sex, stereotypes, retail, bias, compensatory, candidates, nationwide, training, gap

Civil Procedure, Special Proceedings, Class Actions, Certification of Classes, Prerequisites for Class Action, General Overview, Class Members, Named Members, Commonality, Labor & Employment Law, Discrimination, Disparate Impact, Class Actions, Title VII Discrimination, Scope & Definitions, Numerosity, Evidence, Inferences & Presumptions, Inferences, Disparate Treatment, Evidence, Burdens of Proof, Burdens of Proof, Preponderance of Evidence, Employment Practices, Pattern & Practice, Typicality, Selection Procedures, Neutral Factors, Subjective Criteria, Predominance, Judgments, Declaratory Judgments, Maintainability, Remedies, Damages, Monetary Damages, Injunctions, Civil Rights Law, Protection of Rights, Procedural Matters, Notice of Class Action, Notice of Class Action, Content of Notice, Opt Out Provisions, Superiority, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Affirmative & Equitable Relief, Injunctions, Defenses, Burden Shifting, Governments, Courts, Rule Application & Interpretation, Legislation, Statutory Remedies & Rights