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Legal Alert: U.S. Supreme Court Issues Landmark Decision Rejecting Class Certification in Wal-Mart v. Dukes

06/24/2011

In one of the most closely watched cases of the term, the U.S. Supreme Court this week rejected a nationwide Title VII class action filed by more than 1.5 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees. In a five to four ruling, the Court held that plaintiffs failed to provide proof of a common company-wide policy of discrimination necessary to certify a class under Rule 23(a)(2). Justice Scalia, writing for the majority, concluded that the necessary "glue holding the alleged reasons" for all of the individual employment decisions at issue together was missing. A separate unanimous ruling by the Court held that the plaintiffs' claims for back pay were also improperly certified.

Although decided in the context of a Title VII claim, the Wal-Mart holding applies with equal force to other types of class actions. It also provides important guidelines for companies defending against class actions, provides bases for decertifying federal class actions that might run afoul of the standards set by the case and signals the move of the class action battlefront to the states. Snell & Wilmer class action litigation partner Greg Marshall and appellate partner M.C. Sungaila, who was counsel of record for one of the amicus parties supporting Wal-Mart’s position in the case, provide this analysis of the Court’s decision.

Read the full alert.