SCOTUS throws out gender-bias suit against Walmart

A Wal-Mart store.

STEVE CHIOTAKIS: The Supreme Court has ruled Wal-Mart will avoid an expensive class-action lawsuit from women accusing it of sex-discrimination. An earlier appeals court had ruled more than 1.5 million women could've sued collectively. But today's unanimous high court ruling reverses that.

Dahlia Lithwick is a senior editor at Slate.com, and she's with us now on the phone. Good morning.

DAHLIA LITHWICK: Good morning.

CHIOTAKIS: Remind us, Dahlia, what the original sex discrimination case was.

LITHWICK: This is a suit -- one of the largest class action suits in history. It's 1.5 million female employees of Wal-Mart who are trying to file a class action suit alleging that Wal-Mart favors men over women, in both pay and promotions systematically. And Wal-Mart is on the hook for literally billions and billions of dollars.

CHIOTAKIS: This was a unanimous decision. Why such a strong ruling?

LITHWICK: The question really is, can they file this class action at all, or pooling together all these desperate plaintiff and say yes they can proceed as one in one lawsuit. The ninth circuit said yes go ahead. There's enough in common here that they can all file one big ol' suit against Wal-Mart. But the Supreme Court today says no. It's too big, there's too many women. There is -- the court rules -- no policy that we can understand at Wal-Mart that is common to every single decision that was made. So the whole thing is just too big. They can file one at a time individually, but not as a class.

CHIOTAKIS: Yeah, to be sure, there is the opportunity for relief in this case, right? For each woman. But not collectively as a class action.

LITHWICK: That's exactly right. The court is clear that they can go and file individually, but recalling the reasons we have class actions, obviously, you have a lot less power if you're just Betty Duke, filing against Wal-Mart, then if you're 1.5 million Betty Dukes filing against Wal-Mart.

CHIOTAKIS: Dahlia Lithwick, senior editor over at Slate.com. Dahlia thanks.

LITHWICK: Thank you for having me.

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