On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court announced that it would hear Wal-Mart’s appeal of the Ninth Circuit’s en banc decision upholding the certification of a class action gender discrimination lawsuit in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. 

As previously noted here and here,  the plaintiffs in Dukes sought to obtain certification of a nationwide class of women who allegedly have been subjected to discriminatory pay and promotion policies. The proposed class consists of women employed since December 26, 1998, in a range of Wal-Mart positions, from part-time, entry-level hourly employees to salaried managers. 

Plaintiffs contend that Wal-Mart’s strong, centralized structure fosters or facilitates gender stereotyping and discrimination, that the Wal-Mart’s pay and promotions policies and practices are consistent throughout Wal-Mart stores, and that the alleged discrimination is common to all women who work or have worked in Wal-Mart stores.  The lawsuit seeks not only injunctive relief, but also monetary damages for each of the approximately 1.5 million workers who would be included within the class. 

In short, if it is permitted to proceed in accordance with the Ninth Circuit’s ruling, this would be a mammoth class action with billions of dollars of potential monetary relief at stake.  A Supreme Court decision upholding the Ninth Circuit will make it easier and more profitable to bring class action employment discrimination actions with the result that employers, particularly large national and international ones, will have giant targets on them.