One Wal-Mart Manager’s Discretion Doesn’t Make for a Class-Action Lawsuit
Slate Magazine summarized the plaintiff’s case: “A common culture of sexism led to a pattern and practice of discrimination against women working at Wal-Mart stores nationwide," and claimed “…almost three-fourths of Wal-Mart’s hourly wage sales employees were women." Again a translation, of the 1.6 million women employed by Wal-Mart since 1998 who are involved in the suit filed initially by Betty Dukes in 2001, no raises or promotions were offered. These gals feel they’ve got some back pay coming and they’ve also got declarations from 120 women claiming to be victims of the no raise, no promotion bad deal.
I love Wal-Mart’s official response revealed by Facing South’s Joe Atkins, “The group's nothing but a ruse to get unions' foot in the door." Oh no, that “union" word—so controversial these days, isn’t it? Nice going, Wal-Mart.
Here’s the meaty part of the suit. Apparently since every Wal-Mart store manager can use his or her discretion to promote or increase a salary, how can the conglomerate be responsible for every manager’s opinion? So if manager Joe Smith in Toledo only promoted one woman since 1998 and store manager Sally Jones in Austin promoted no women since 1998, because the two don’t work at the same store and are allowed to be “discretionary" when making these types of decisions, their distance does not make for a class-action suit.
Basically, because all Wal-Mart stores act as a single unit (sounds Borg-like here), women who feel they’ve been harassed should file a lawsuit with the stores individually. Yeah, more lawsuits, more attorneys’ fees and the only winners will be the lawyers—if they win at all.
Those harmed in the 1994 $3.4 billion class action suit filed against Corning, Baxter, Bristol-Meyers Squibb/MEC and 3M stated the manufacturer’s breast implants caused auto-immune disease because of varying amounts of silicone. Here, the surgeons utilizing these products were not sued, the manufacturers were—most likely with doctors offering expert testimony on the effects of silicone. While doctors were the actual inserters of these breast implants, the Supreme Court determined the manufacturers were at fault, not the individual surgeons who were likely given demonstrations on the implants and assured clients of their safety levels. So how does the Supreme Court determine which part of the tree is relevant when it comes to class action suits? Those at the top or those selling the product?
Here’s where I have a huge problem when it comes to defining what class-action means. What about the Ford Pinto nightmare? The blow-ups and fires caused by faulty gas tanks didn’t mean consumers sued the dealerships that sold them. Nope, they went for the deep pockets of Ford Motor Company.