Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011)

The United States Supreme Court held that this class of as many as 1.5 million current and former female Wal-Mart employees was improperly certified by the lower court. The three lead plaintiffs claimed they were discriminated against on the basis of their gender and that Wal-Mart’s policy of providing deference to local managers’ subjective pay and promotion decisions satisfied the commonality test for certifying a class action under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(a)(2). Plaintiffs sought injunctive and declaratory relief, punitive damages and backpay for the class members. In a 5-to-4 majority opinion, the Court rejected plaintiffs’ showing of commonality, including the fact that they submitted only 120 affidavits (one for every 12,500 class members) purportedly evidencing gender discrimination. In the second part of the opinion, the Court unanimously held that plaintiffs’ claims for backpay were improperly certified under Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2) because the monetary relief was not incidental to the injunctive or declaratory relief sought.