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Supreme Court Places High Hurdle for Women to Overcome Pay Discrimination

June 20, 2011

(Washington, D.C.) Today in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled against the female plaintiffs in Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., v. Betty Dukes, et al., preventing them from banding together as a class to challenge the discrimination they described in receiving lower pay and fewer promotions.

The following is a statement by National Women's Law Center (NWLC) Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger:

"Today the Supreme Court issued a devastating decision undoing the rights of millions of women across the country to come together and hold their employers accountable for their discriminatory practices. The Court has told employers that they can rest easy, knowing that the bigger and more powerful they are, the less likely their employees will be able to come together to secure their rights. Women now have fewer rights to challenge discrimination than before today’s ruling.

"By preventing the women of Wal-Mart from banding together as a class, the Court set back efforts by a large group of women who have been fighting for ten years to challenge the discrimination they described in receiving lower pay and fewer promotions — even when the women had higher performance ratings than their male counterparts.

"Today’s ruling undermines the very purposes of the class action mechanism and is tantamount to closing the courthouse door on millions of women who cannot vindicate their rights one person at a time. The women of Wal-Mart — and women everywhere — will now face a far steeper road to challenge and correct pay and other forms of discrimination in the workplace.

"Congress must do all it can to ensure that this decision does not stand, including by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. The women of Wal-Mart — and women everywhere — must have a real chance to gain equal pay and a fairer workplace."

More information is available on our main Wal-Mart v. Dukes resource page, including background materials and analysis.

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