Wal-Mart is currently the subject of one of the biggest workplace discrimination lawsuits in history. Female employees say the company systematically discriminated against them in hiring and business practices. But is a million-person class action suit fair?
Wal-Mart—along with (surprise) a slew of other huge corporate American employers—argues that tying together the claims of upwards of "potentially more than a million women who worked in 170 kinds of jobs across 3,400 stores" is not totally fair. The WSJ reports:
Theodore Boutrous Jr., Wal-Mart's lead counsel in the suit, said anecdotes cited by the plaintiffs-such as district managers holding meetings at a Hooters restaurant-didn't reflect company practices. "It's so far from being representative that it's absurd," he said.
Mr. Boutrous called the suit part of a legal experiment in which plaintiffs throw together a combination of broad statistics about wages and promotions, as well as sociology and anecdotes, in an effort to create "instant class actions."
We fear—and we say this as one of the world's leading Wal-Mart haters—that Wal-Mart might have a point here. It could be somewhat unfair to ask a company to defend itself from such a vast number of claims in one fell swoop. Instead, why not have a million women file a million separate lawsuits against Wal-Mart? That would be better.
[WSJ, photo of plaintiff Betty Dukes via AP]