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. chichi

    this is soooo messed up we the women of the unithed states of america have to fight for our rights again like i said in the begining this is sooo messed up

    March 29, 2011 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. james

    Everybody has his or her hand out to get some "easy" money. If they don't want to work at Walmart, then go to K-Mart. Better yet, get some education, then you won't have to be a Walmart assistant.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
  3. apes

    Americans what a bunch of cry babies. If I had a business I would move it overseas too.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |

      You're a slag, nothing more. Why don't YOU move overseas. Try those chinese wages. Cry baby. Slag sucker.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |

    No other company in the world has done so much to lower working class wages and promote communist slave wages. BOYCOTT this shill of a company. No wonder they give exclusively to the same people the Koch Brothers give to.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |

    They should rename this company China-Mart, the place to go to outsource American jobs to communist China.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:06 pm | Report abuse |

    Goes right along with this company forcing people to work on breaks and work off the clock to close up after hours. That WAS a class action suit and they found it prevalent across all bandings of WalMart Inc, the colossus anti-employee company. They treat their employees like garbage cans while the owners live in billion dollar homes.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. gimmeabreak

    I spent 6 years in management at one of the world's largest transportation and logistics companies and I can testify that management is not out to get the "little guy." I was SO sick and tired of employees moaning and complaining about how management had some hidden agenda and we were out to make their lives miserable and pay them as little as possible. It just ain't so.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:09 pm | Report abuse |
  8. nessa

    This is why prices keep going up someone is always trying to sue someone make your money the way the rest of us do if they do end up getting a chance to sue walmart just think want it is going to do to prices.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  9. truth2power

    Wall Mart is SATAN.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. wytnyt

    women will always make less than men regardless of the profession their in.
    they should feel fortunate we allow them out of the kitchen where their best suited in the first place

    March 29, 2011 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      Your clearly not aware of recent economic statistics that show that women are not only gaining degrees at a rate of 2 to 1 over males, but that young women 35 and under with degrees are earning higher salaries than their male counterparts. So maybe you should go to the kitchen and fix me up a snack.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      @Alyssa- You go girl. I second your motion.

      March 30, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. downwithneonazies

    stop buying corporate products whenever possible. that's all there is to do, to bring the corporate parasites down on their knees.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. downwithneonazies

    live OFF the corporate grid, and watch the parasites die off.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:46 pm | Report abuse |
  13. james

    I love walmart. I will shop there as long as they're in buisness....The socalled conservative court that Toobin mentioned is a lie....It is the court that allows the slaughter of the UNBORN are a LIAR!

    March 29, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • John N. Florida

      It's a fetus, not a child. Screaming and shouting won't change that fact.
      I'm sorry you married a demented female without a mind.
      My wife is perfectly capable of making decisions regarding her body WITHOUT your, or any legislature's, help.

      March 29, 2011 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • JSB

      It is a conservative court... mostly. I also have no problems shopping at Wal-mart. Perhaps most of you are too young to remember what prices were like before megastores. Moving product on a massive scale allows for lower prices. I have no idea about their treatment of employees, but irrefutably stores like it offer a service to the community. As for your side topic of abortion, John is right that it's a fetus but he's wrong that it's not a child. From the dictionary:

      child [chahyld] –noun, plural chil·dren.
      1. a person between birth and full growth; a boy or girl: books for children.
      2. a son or daughter: All my children are married.
      3. a baby or infant.
      4. a human fetus.

      You might want to educate yourself John.

      March 30, 2011 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Krystal

      John N Florida, your wife may just not to want your kids for fear they will be ugly and stupid like you. Or she could just be a murderer. whatever.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Seer

      JSB ...
      – since when did "conservative" = "pro big business"? Last time I checked, one conserves the past, in which big business played a far smaller role.
      – Wal-Mart may 'serve' the community with low prices, but the discounts are just money that is kept out of the local and national economies. So when you save a $1 on something, remember, that is a dollar that isn't going to an American worker. Hardly a "conservative" approach, given that in the past, American dollars went to American workers. You can't "conserve" the US by putting the large corporations in charge.

      March 30, 2011 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Alyssa

      "- since when did "conservative" = "pro big business"? Last time I checked, one conserves the past, in which big business played a far smaller role."


      Conservative = Pro-free market, which by its very definition makes them pro big business since that is the natural conclusion of a free market.

      March 30, 2011 at 10:12 am | Report abuse |
  14. dan

    just a few women who couldnt cut it as an employee, and decided to get a fast buck. i guarantee the employees have a sub par work ethic and hence cant get ahead.

    March 29, 2011 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. John N. Florida

    For the same reason the banks have never been punished Wal*Mart will get a pass. They're too big to fail and if they did, China's economy would crash.
    Anyone who has had a relative working at Wal*Mart knows they practice wage discrimination. Maryland caught them schooling new hires as to what assistance programs new hires would qualify for at their pathetic pay scale.
    I have to shop at Wal*Mart because I can't afford to pay the extra 50 – 100% charged by Publix.
    The Justices will deny the Class Action status which will cause the case to fall.
    Sam Walton is twisting in his grave. Remember when Wal*Mart had signs proudly proclaiming their allegiance to American made products?

    March 29, 2011 at 11:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • JSB

      It's a pay scale for uneducated unskilled labor. Most similar positions at other retails stores offer nearly the same wages. Go to your local BigK or Dollar store, which cater to like customers and higher similar skill levels, and you will see the same starting wages. I do agree that they've forgotten their support for American products, but I believe, if you research, you will find their are more factors involved than just 'show me the money'.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
    • JSB

      Sorry it's one in the morning. I mean 'hire' not 'higher'.

      March 30, 2011 at 1:06 am | Report abuse |
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