Toobin: 'Very good day in court for Wal-Mart'
Activists supporting efforts to allow a class-action lawsuit against Wal-Mart hold signs in front of the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
March 29th, 2011
07:52 PM ET

Toobin: 'Very good day in court for Wal-Mart'

The Supreme Court's conservative majority didn't appear impressed Tuesday with plaintiffs' arguments that more than 1 million female Wal-Mart workers, past and present, should be able to accuse the retailer of discrimination in one class-action lawsuit, CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said.

Though a ruling isn't expected until late June, the justices' reactions during oral arguments might portend a defeat for six plaintiffs who want to band with employees from across the country and make their accusations in a single, massive trial, Toobin said.

"I thought it was a very good day in court for Wal-Mart, and I would not be at all surprised if the whole case were thrown out after listening to the justices today,” Toobin said on "CNN Newsroom."

The Supreme Court is deciding whether the original lawsuit, in which six female Wal-Mart workers allege systemic discrimination in which the retailer paid women less than men and gave women fewer promotions, can be given class-action status.

A decision to allow such a large suit, with nearly 1.6 million potential plaintiffs, would represent an enormous litigation risk for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Should Wal-Mart lose such a suit, it could face tens of billions of dollars in damages.

But the Supreme Court's conservative justices appeared skeptical of arguments for allowing a class action, Toobin said.

Both sides concede that Wal-Mart has official policies barring discrimination against women and  listing diversity as an important value, Toobin said.

"What the plaintiffs' lawyers were saying (Tuesday) was that that policy was so vague that it gave local, individual store managers the opportunity to discriminate against women," Toobin said. "The more conservative justices on the court were saying, 'Well, if that’s the case, how can you try them all together? Because each store had a different set of circumstances. How can you do a class action when the policy is a fair one, a good one, and it’s only the individuals who were possibly discriminated against?'"

A decision to allow a class-action suit might lead Wal-Mart to try to settle the case to get the "enormous risk off its books," Toobin said.

"But after today, I think Wal-Mart will be a lot less willing to settle, because it looks like much or all of the case may be thrown out by what is an increasingly conservative Supreme Court," Toobin said.

- CNN Supreme Court Producer Bill Mears and CNN's Randi Kaye contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Business • Courts • Justice • Lawsuit • Supreme Court
soundoff (234 Responses)
  1. Herbert

    At a boy Ernie!

    March 29, 2011 at 9:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Col. Bat Guano

    Sometimes you have no choice wzrd1. What reality do you live in? Must be a nice one with lots of options. Survival and getting by is sometimes more important. But Wal-mart should be sued by all of its employees for being treated like school children.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      Communities should sue walmart for subsidizing its workers with foodstamps, health benefits, and HUD housing...

      March 29, 2011 at 9:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mike

    wal-mart has nothing I need or want. I have never shopped there and never will. Their corporate practices and policies kill local businesses. plus they have way too much money already.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mmmmm

      How many customers were victims of crimes in their stores and parking lots due to inept security?

      March 29, 2011 at 9:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • d. elbert

      Some people have no problem throwing money away, I get the same products at walmart for much less

      March 29, 2011 at 10:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Catharsis

    Don't be fool. Walmart is not the cheapest out there. Their products are cheaply made but they are not the cheapest. I have compared prices and sometimes I am surprised @ how I find other places cheaper than them. My friend works at one of the stores and said they aren't doing as well as before. His store used to make 1 million a week and dole out heft huge bonuses to the store managers. I think the bad press, cheaply made goods, and just the whole atmosphere of dissent and disdain their own workers have for the company has soured its image. I rarely shop there anymore unless I really really really need something. I even find my neighborhood grocer cheaper than them. 99. a lb for boneless chicken breast, you can't beat that.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • krozareq

      Walmart isn't the cheapest any more. Some stuff they do have cheaply on sale but as far as groceries go I find Kroger to be cheaper for most things I buy. Plus if you spend $100/mo there, you get 10c off of gas. The Mexican stores where you bring your own shopping bags are the cheapest by far. I go to those places for the staples. As far as electronics and housewares, Walmart doesn't even come close.

      March 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • d. elbert

      I live 5 blocks from a QFC ( kroger ) and their prices are way to high,, I drive 35 miles to a Walmart and save big time

      March 29, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. crashtx1

    Interesting comments in the story, but were the liberal judges present today? Were they questioning more on behalf of the potential plaintiffs? I would have like to have known that.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:46 pm | Report abuse |
  6. krozareq

    Of all the retail places I have worked, I actually found Walmart to be the most fair and respectful to their workers out of all of them. Walmart is also very strict on labor laws, you can't even log into their website without being clocked in. If on your way out after a shift or on lunch and a customer stops you, you have to fill out a time sheet for that. They also have advisors that you can call 24/7. It's not Google or Facebook, it's a retail job. But compared to Target and several other places I found them a lot better. The management staff was about as diverse as I see in Texas. The break area was also nice with a 50"flat screen, a separate smoking lounge, plenty of fridges etc. and they were always brining stuff from the bakery. I am a traveler so I never stay at one place too long but I'd go back in a heartbeat. I was an overnight stocker and we get a ton of leeway. I could even listen to music as long as I had 1 ear clear.

    March 29, 2011 at 9:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • d. elbert

      Thats true and I know people who work there, also it is a great place to shop, same products as any-other store but less cost

      March 29, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Herbert

    @Mark: Dam, that's kind of rude and arrogant to white people-don't you think?

    March 29, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  8. JAZZY

    ok, is everybody happy I have changed my since you like to call me that , I feel loved , night Banasy .

    March 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Herbert

    @Mike: never shopped at Wal-Mart? You're a liar. But I see your point and frustration. @Krozareg: true, I have noticed better deals elsewhere, but those are few in between.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Consultofactus

    America has turned into the land of the freeloader and home of the naive. Of course low skill or no skill jobs aren't going to be particullary rewarding either financially or emotionally. THESE WOMEN put themselves in a situation where they work in an environment populated with others just like them. Did they expect Walmart could afford to hire Rhodes Scholars to manage shelf stuffers and check-out jockeys? I'm sure that after week after mind-numbing week these women hatched a plan to take any percieved slight as an affront to their civil rights. Without any marketable skills these women should be grateful for decent employment of any kind – instead they decided to go for a big, unearned payday by turning the angst they caused in their own wretched lives into a fantasm of how Walmart vicitmized them – pathetic!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike

      yeh I am sure you have it all figured out.

      March 29, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • d. elbert

      Thank you for telling it the way it is,

      March 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Marlen

    If the Surpeme Court allows the class action suit against Wal-mart hundreds of large corporations will face similar suits...Not to mention the billions of dollars in associated litigation costs to defend themselves from lawsuits gone wild...And guess where those companies will pass these costs to? Exactly, the customers...so we ALL lose if Wal-mart loses...
    If you ask me, sure women collectively are still paid less than their male counterparts, BUT you were the one to accept the job offer!!! Maybe if women did a better job negotiating their pay up front and were brave enough to walk away if they did not agree with the offered salary then the salary gap between men and women would diminish...Women need to stand and up and demand to be paid what they think they are worth!!! Maybe men are paid more, because they have already figured out how to negotiate their pay to reflect what they feel they are worth to the company?

    March 29, 2011 at 10:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • d. elbert

      Thank you, so right

      March 29, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Agreed. I am transgender. I have never noticed any difference or discrimination from being a woman and being a man (after I transitioned). If people stop playing victim, they find they will go far.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Corey

    Self Check Out Registers comeing soon!

    March 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm | Report abuse |
  13. d. elbert

    We went thru this in the 70's with equal rights, I was foreman in a machine shop and we had to hire minority mostly women and they could not work alone and always complain or trash a machine to get put on something else, thats why manufacturing went overseas, company's cannot have worthless workers. They have to be pampered or its a major issue, women should be at home cleaning house.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  14. tammy

    here's the problem.... Wally World has the policy, but its management is not enforcing the policy, so in theory Wally World is liable. However, I completely understand why management/Wally World does not really want women being promoted to higher positions with higher pay due to the fact that most women can not put in the time nor energy to those positions b/c typically women are the one's who are the caregivers and must leave work early or have childcare problems or child management issues, or "female" issues and can't give what men can give that a corporation needs. Men also typically don't have hearts or a conscience, and don't let their feelings get in the way of doing their jobs, whereas women do, meaning women are too hormonal. Simply put, women don't and can't measure up to what a man can do. It's a fact, we women need to put aside our pride, and our arrogance and deal with it. Corporations are logically going to invest in something, and someone that can help them make money and succeed in the long haul. I think we women have played the "equal rights" card for far too long, we aren't equal, we can't do the load nor the job of a man, it's impossible, and it's time we accept it and take the balls that we try to wear and give them back to the men.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aucausin

      I think you should speak for yourself. If you want to give up that's your call, I for one will not accept being told I am not able to do something as well as someone else solely on the fact that I was born a woman. I do not have children, refuse to have children, and as soon as I am able I am doing away with my "female" problems for good. Therefore I am more than capable of doing the same amount of work as a man. I won't take sick days, I won't take leaves, and I won't let the family I don't have interfere with my career. I'll be damned if a low life uneducated person like you says I'm not equal to a man or anyone else for that matter.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
  15. banasy

    Night, Jazzy. 😉

    To me, it's simple. Shop at Wal-Mart...or not. Work at Wal-Mart...or not. Sue Wal-Mart if you have a provable, justified claim...and those 6 women should sue that particular store/management.

    And the argument of college grads making more than no-grads is really pointless unless we are talking about management positions...which is not what these 6 women were talking about...and sometimes life experience cannot be taught in a classroom. I would probably rather have a non-grad with 20 years life experience running my business than a new grad that never worked retail at all but has a new degree. But that's MHO.

    March 29, 2011 at 10:47 pm | Report abuse |
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