(CN) – The Supreme Court on Monday said it would review the employment discrimination class action against Wal-Mart, which threatens to cost the world’s largest private employer billions in damages.
The 9th Circuit ruled 6-5 in April to send the case to trial, but the high court took up one of Wal-Mart’s arguments for an appeal: whether a class action is an appropriate forum for individual employees’ claims.
Six women sued the Bentonville, Ark.-based company in San Francisco Federal Court in 2001, claiming they received less pay and fewer promotions than men in comparable positions.
A federal judge ruled that the class should encompass “all women employed by Wal-Mart at any time after Dec. 26, 1998,” across the company’s 3,400 stores.
Wal-Mart argued that the proposed class – an estimated 1.5 million women – is too big to fight, and that employees should file individual lawsuits.
One circuit judge who affirmed the case wrote in April that “mere size does not render a case unmanageable.”
In a dissenting opinion from the April decision, Judge Sandra Ikuta wrote: “No court has ever certified a class like this one, until now. And with good reason. In this case, six women who have worked in thirteen of Wal-Mart’s 3,400 stores seek to represent every woman who has worked in those stores over the course of the last decade – a class estimated in 2001 to include more than 1.5 million women.”