In Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2531 (2011), the Supreme Court held that a proposed class of over a million women that had alleged pay and promotion discrimination against the nation’s largest retailer could not be certified. According to the Court, the plaintiffs had failed to establish a common thread in the case sufficient to tie their claims together. The academic response to Wal-Mart was immediate and harsh: the decision will serve as the death knell for mass employment litigation, undermining the workplace protections provided by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII). This Article embraces the view offered by scholars to date, and does not engage the debate over the extent to which Wal-Mart will eviscerate the employment rights of workers.
Instead, this Article attempts — for the first time — to find a solution to the problem created by Wal-Mart. The academic literature has yet to explore possible ways to minimize the impact of the Court’s decision, and this Article seeks to fill that void in the scholarship. Though the case undoubtedly weakens the ability of Title VII plaintiffs to pursue class-action claims, the decision still leaves substantial room for creative approaches to systemic discrimination. This paper offers three such solutions to the problem created by Wal-Mart: the governmental approach, the procedural response, and revised relief. This Article critiques each approach, and explains how they are useful in pursuing workplace cases that involve company-wide discrimination. This paper also situates these proposals in the context of the existing literature.
The thesis of this Article is simple. Taking at face value the argument of scholars that Wal-Mart has created a gaping hole for victims of systemic discrimination, this paper asks what tools are still available for plaintiffs to help fill that hole. Wal-Mart signals a sea change for mass-employment litigation. The challenge now will be to find imaginative ways of pursuing systemic discrimination claims. For the first time in the academic literature, this Article takes on that challenge.
Joseph Seiner, Weathering Wal-Mart, 89 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1343 (2013).