America’s Largest Sex Discrimination Case Reaches Supreme Court

After 10 years of delays, America’s largest sex discrimination lawsuit finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court. The class-action lawsuit claims Wal-Mart discriminated against women employees, promoting and paying men more and telling female employees to “doll up.”

Wal-Mart denied any corporate-level discrimination, and said a class action suit of that size was unworkable and cases should be investigated individually. The multi-billion dollar lawsuit could make fundamental changes to U.S. discrimination law, potentially unleashing a flood of huge class-action suits.

* The suit began in 2000 when Betty Dukes claimed that, in spite of working for Wal-Mart for several years with excellent reviews, she had been denied training necessary to advance in her job. According to, Wal-Mart alleged that she had fought with a female superior and had been disciplined for repeatedly returning late after her lunch breaks.

* Dukes and other women filed a class-action suit on June 19, 2001, called Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., and a motion on April 28, 2003. According to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s report on Wal-Mart, this was on behalf of all past and present female employees in all of Wal-Mart’s retail stores and clubs in America.

* Because of disagreement over whether a class action suit could reasonably be filed for over a million people, a hearing was held Sept. 23, 2003.

* On June 21, 2004, while The United States District Court for the Northern District of California accepted the claim as valid for a class-action lawsuit, it decided the suit could only apply to females employed by Wal-Mart retail stores in America since Dec. 26, 1998. This included approximately 1.6 million plaintiffs.

* Author Liza Featherstone wrote about Dukes v. Wal-Mart and other cases in Selling Women Short: The Landmark Battle for Worker’s Rights at Wal-Mart published by Basic Books in late 2004.

* Wal-Mart disputed the court’s acceptance of the claim as a valid class-action lawsuit, and argued against the decision on Aug. 8, 2005.

* On Feb. 6, 2007, the majority for the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the previous court decision that Dukes v. Wal-Mart was a valid class-action lawsuit. Wal-Mart filed for a rehearing and a rehearing en banc contending the majority made a legal error in their decision.

* The Ninth Court withdrew its decision on Dec. 11, 2007, but again asserted the claim was a valid lawsuit.

* According to The Washington Post, a federal appeals court in San Francisco granted Wal-Mart’s request to rehear the case on Feb. 13, 2009.

* In a sharply-divided 6-5 decision on April 26, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco decided the case could proceed but would not apply to women who only worked for Wal-Mart before 2001.

* On March 29 in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, the U.S. Supreme Court began considering whether the claim was a valid class-action lawsuit, as reported by the Associated Press and Yahoo! News.


“Dukes vs. Wal-Mart,” Feazell & Tighe LLP

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, “DUKES v. WAL MART INC,” FindLaw

United States Securities and Exchange Commission, “WAL-MART STORES, INC. FORM 10-Q FOR THE QUARTERLY PERIOD ENDED OCTOBER 31, 2005,” U. S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Karen Gullo and Margaret Cronin Fisk, “Wal-Mart Wins Request in Bias Case,” Bloomberg News and The Washington Post

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, “DUKES v. WAL-MART, INC.,” Wal-Mart Class Website

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, “DUKES v. WAL-MART STORES,” United States Courts

Mark Sherman, “Wal-Mart sex-bias case hits possible court block,” Associated Press and Yahoo! News