- What did the Supreme Court decide in the Wal-Mart case? And more importantly, how did it justify its decision?
The Supreme Court ruled in Wal-Mart’s favor. The Court justified their ruling based on the principle of commonality. In other words, commonality refers to the relationship of common facts and legal issues among class members. This feature is required when a group of people is looking to be certified for class-action lawsuit. Moreover, a class-action lawsuit is a type of lawsuit where cases are combined to represent a “collective body that could speak its members’ grievances more powerfully than any one of them could individually”. However, these same law tools were the ones that did not allow these women to win the case. This case was very big, the plaintiffs were representing 1.5 million women, which made it difficult to fill in the requirements for the principle of commonality. The question was: could somebody represent so many people?. In addition, the plaintiffs were seeking for both “injunctive relief” (a court ordered mandate that forces institutions to resolve a systemic issue) and for a payback.
Initially, when the case was filed, it was misplaced under a class that it did not belong to. Thus, the Supreme Court was able to argue that this misclassification compromised the women’s class status. Then, they would have to look even broader back and judge their principle of commonality. Later, when they did so they ruled again in Wal-mart’s favor. For the Court, a commonality requirement is that there be “questions of law or fact” common to the class” and that “to claim commonality a class must not only share a common problem, but also a common solution to that problem”. Hence, Because the 1.5 million female Wal-Mart employees were not all denied the same promotion, the same pay raise, or insulted, belittled, or obstructed by the same manager in the same store, their cases could not legitimately be litigated all at once. In short, the case was denied based on several technicalities.