In June 2011, the Supreme Court decertified a class action brought by women claiming that Wal-Mart underpaid and underpromoted its female employees throughout the chain. The Court's decision in the case, called Wal-Mart v. Dukes, was predicted to have significant effect on plaintiffs' ability to litigate Title VII discrimination cases on a classwide basis. Two years later, ProPublica has reported on the impact of Dukes.
The Dukes decision has already been cited more than 1,200 times
in rulings by federal and state courts, a figure seen by experts as
remarkable. Jury verdicts have been overturned, settlements thrown out,
and class actions rejected or decertified, in many instances undoing
years of litigation. The rulings have come in every part of the country,
in lawsuits involving all types of companies, including retailers
(Family Dollar Stores), government contractors (Lockheed Martin Corp.),
business-services providers (Cintas Corp.), and magazines (Hearst
Corp.). The aftershocks have been felt in many kinds of lawsuits beyond
the employment field, as well.
The story has some examples of cases that were certified as class actions post-Dukes. Overall, though, the article shows the very significant barrier that the Supreme Court's decision has created to litigation of large class actions, in civil rights cases and otherwise.