In a historic decision published today by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, class status was granted to 1.5 million current and former female employees of Wal-Mart. In Dukes v Wal-Mart, Patricia Dukes and other similarly situated women are suing Wal-Mart for gender discrimination. While the merits of the case are still to be determined in the trial, this decision allowed the female employees to move forward with their class action suit. One of the primary arguments of the plaintiff was that because Wal-Mart has such a strong corporate culture, that anything the central office declares is policy is carried out by the individual stores. And because the plaintiffs are alleging that Wal-Mart’s broad corporate policies discriminate against women, including paying them less than men and promoting them more slowly, that’s bad news for Wal-Mart.
The message this case carries for employers, so far, is that despite all the hype and fads, a strong corporate culture isn’t automatically a good thing. Make sure, with your executive team and including your senior HR executive, that your corporate culture is positive, equitable, and promotes compliance with the law.
You can read the actual decision and learn more about the case at: http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/data2/circs/9th/0416688op.pdf.