Essay Sample on Wal-Mart v. Dukes: Corporate Accountability and Discrimination in the Workplace

Published: 2023-10-18
Essay Sample on Wal-Mart v. Dukes: Corporate Accountability and Discrimination in the Workplace
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Discrimination Business Employment Accounting
Pages: 7
Wordcount: 1908 words
16 min read


For the longest time in the history of the United States, many people have been unable to hold corporates accountable for their errors and unfair treatment towards people, the environment, or other stakeholders. Employees of some of the largest corporates in the nation undergo suffering since they may not be bold enough to hold their employers accountable for their misdemeanors and violations of some basic employment laws (Kellogg). The Walmart v. Dukes case is one of the most important cases in the history of corporate America. The case is a class action against the firm by a group of women who were alleging discrimination by the firm. The main idea behind this case was that the workplace policies set by Wal-Mart did not facilitate a conducive work environment for women. Betty Dukes was the female worker who decided to sue Wal-Mart for paying women at lower rates than men for an equal amount of work. On most occasions, women felt discriminated against and unfairly treated. Eventually, about 1.5 million women came forward, presenting the same claim. These figures showed that discrimination was systemic; it appeared that gender bias was part of the company's corporate culture (McCormick 715). After presenting their case before up to the Supreme Court for a couple of years, it was ruled that there was not enough justification to proceed with the case since the claims presented by the plaintiffs were inconsistent. The lack of consideration from the higher courts resulted in many law scholars, lawyers, employees, and businesses perceiving Wal-Mart as a company that was somehow above the law.

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History of the Case

In reality, the failure to deliver justice, in this case, was proof that class actions may no longer be used as a tool to hold enterprises accountable for their irresponsible behavior. The Dukes lawsuit was the most massive class-action lawsuit in American history. The case had been filed in 2001 by Betty Dukes at the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Francisco (McCormick 712). Part of the complaint by the first six plaintiffs was that the company had allowed its managers to violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This claim was on the basis that the managers violated pay and promotion rules whereby women were treated differently from men. The class action had established a statistical pattern that backed the claim, thereby making the case plausible and actionable by the court.

Additionally, the case had met all the requirements of being a class action lawsuit since it was numerous enough with the plaintiffs satisfying the standard of Rule 23, which understates how a class action should be presented (McCormick 713). In the case, there were reports from about 120 women regarding discrimination. Hence, their claim for declaratory or injunctive relief was valid, thereby allowing the plaintiffs to retain a representative who would watch out for their interests.

Other plaintiffs in the case included Christine Kwapnoski, who was an employee at Sam’s Club stores in Missouri (Martin). Despite holding several positions in the company, she claims that her manager shouted at her and other workers several. She felt that this was unfair since the male employees did not receive the same kind of treatment. Christine also made an allegation that her male manager had always asked her to dress better without advancing the same requirement to the male employees. Edith Arana, on the other hand, presented her discrimination claim after being denied a training opportunity (Martin). In her opinion, she was denied the chance because she was female, and the store manager did not approve of female career advancement. Therefore, Christine, Edith, and Betty had a unilateral claim which alleged that the Wal-Mart store managers exercise their power in a way that disadvantages women. The failure by Wal-Mart to curb the powers of their managers, according to the plaintiffs, has, over the years, led to the derailment in progression for most women. The demands of the plaintiffs, therefore, were not compensatory but seeking injunctive and declaratory relief, back pay, and punitive damages.

Details of the Case

The allegation made by the plaintiffs was that the company facilitated disparate treatment, which then ensured that the members of the class action did not make any progress in their careers (Malveaux 34). The court, on its end, failed to declare any merit on the case, especially when the plaintiffs began pursuing back pays regarding the issue. Wal-Mart moved to court to contend the allegations of the class action by trying to strike out the evidence presented. A such, they exposed themselves as a company that was vulnerable to gender bias and discrimination, thereby giving the case validity. The company was also in disagreement with the plaintiffs’ needs for monetary claims since the same would deny them a chance to present their statutory defense in a court of law (Kellogg). Consequently, the certification order by the District Court received the approval of the Court of Appeal since there were enough grounds to raise questions regarding the discriminatory acts. According to the main plaintiff, Dukes, the class members suffered a similar injury, and their claim was not about Title VII violation. Further, the support by the lower courts was a guarantee that the plaintiffs would win the case against their employer, given that Wal-Mart has similar cases in court (Selmi and Sylvia 804). However, the Supreme Court held a different opinion partly because of the general hostility directed towards huge companies.

Additionally, the Court of Appeal allowed the District Court to utilize the Hilao v. Estates of Marcos approach, which held that the class action members would be compensated based on a random selection of claims. Ideally, the Court of Appeal recommended a similar approach to this case since there was an already existing precedence. This strategy would allow the company to present defenses in a randomly selected format to ensure that there was room to argue that there were plaintiffs whose concerns were not anchored on gender discrimination. What Betty Duke was trying to justify in the Wal-Mart v. Duke et al., case, is that women represented the lowly-paid retail workers. Before its dismissal, the case aroused a lot of controversy in the court system after the 5-4 bench decision where the conservative judges with a single vote (McCormick 715). The conservatives noted that the statistical data available was not enough to rule against the retailer based on systematic discrimination (Corkery). According to them, all the managers couldn't exercise their powers and discretion similarly. Therefore, the case could not be ruled against Wal-Mart based on the technicality that all the managers in the Wal-Mart stores were incapable of making a unilateral decision as alleged by the plaintiffs.

According to the dissenting judges, the court also had an issue with the plaintiffs who expected the court to certify their claim without solid facts. In their opinion, this was a gap that had been created by the ease with which class actions were ruled in favor of the plaintiff. In making this decision, they relied on the Eisen v. Carlisle & Jacquelin case of 1974 where it was stated that “Nothing in either language or history of Rule 23 gives a court any authority to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the merits of a suit to determine whether it may be maintained as a class action.” (Trask 326). Consequently, the arguments by the plaintiffs regarding the language on the courts regarding the class action proved to be a failure.

The argument by Wal-Mart was that this case lacked commonality in line with Rule 23 (a). They narrowed their focus on the validity of the expert testimony and the admissibility of the same. The company, in its argument, noted that not every woman was affected the same way. This was because the job promotion standards and payment increment structures were not uniform for all employees. Also, the defendants argued that the size of the company and the class action was large enough to permit the provision of nondiscriminatory arguments and characteristics (Kellogg). In essence, the store has a vast amount of personnel and outlets that make them settle on non-discriminative decisions. Therefore, Wal-Mart was able to present a counter-argument that postulated that monetary relief was dominating injunctive relief. Eventually, the Supreme Court agreed with the dissenting judges. They also reversed the certification of this case, and this led to the failure of the case.

One of the reasons why the case failed to meet the ‘commonality’ threshold was because the plaintiffs failed to present expert witnesses regarding the claims on discrimination (Kellogg). The plaintiffs in the case did not have significant proof of their claims, and this frustrated their chances of winning the case. According to the dissenting judges, an inquiry would be necessary to certify any discrimination claims and to understand why individual employment decisions had been made regarding the women in question. A such there needed to be a common question and reason binding the allegations of all women as opposed to the generalized claims concerning discrimination.

Ramifications of the Case

In most instances, laws and decisions made in courts have significant effects on the existing businesses. Such precedences enable entities to function within the confines of the law to avoid instances of breaching the law. It is, therefore, essential for companies to understand case laws since they assist them in navigating any legal issues that they may encounter in the course of their engagements. Like with any case law, the Wal-Mart v. Dukes case set a standard that many businesses and employees can follow during their engagement (Martin). The decision, for instance, showed the importance of holding entities accountable, and it exposed the discriminatory patterns that some businesses adopt in the course of their operations. It also exposed huge companies to scrutiny regarding how they handle the progress of their employees.

One of the ramifications of this case was that it opened up large businesses for scrutiny by the general public. Most people expected that the case would be ruled in favor of the plaintiff since there were justifiable reasons for the placement of the suit. The decision raised questions regarding equal employment opportunities in the United States. Given that Walmart is one of the largest retailers in the globe, the general public, legal, and human resource practitioners expected that the Supreme Court would look deeper into the allegations of the over one million women. The ruling set a standard that showed how large discrimination cases would be treated in the future. Ideally, one of the criteria established is that discrimination issues could remain unaddressed even when presented in courts of law (Kellogg). According to some scholars, the ruling undid much of the progress that had been made concerning equality over decades. Therefore, one of the ramifications of this ruling was that it allowed the general public to be keener on the operations of prominent corporations, especially about how they treat women.

This case also exposed the inequalities that minority groups are subject to within any business environment. Betty Dukes was a woman of African-American origin. Her allegations and work history at Wal-Mart showed that she had struggled to rise above the ranks. However, she had been denied a chance to make progress in her career or salary, and the same had derailed her general progression in life. This was also the case for a majority of the minority women working at the Wal-Mart stores (Corkery).

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Essay Sample on Wal-Mart v. Dukes: Corporate Accountability and Discrimination in the Workplace. (2023, Oct 18). Retrieved from

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