Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for a 5-4 majority, said the plaintiffs failed to provide proof of a common companywide policy of discrimination, which he said is necessary to certify a class under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a)(2). “To sue about literally millions of employment decisions at once, [plaintiffs] need some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together,” said Scalia in summarizing his ruling from the bench. He added that the plaintiffs’ evidence of commonality among the plaintiffs was “entirely absent” and “worlds away” from what is required under the Court’s 1982 Falcon precedent.
In a separate, unanimous part of the ruling that amounted to a one-two punch, the Court also said that the plaintiffs’ quest for back pay in addition to injunctive relief ran afoul of Rule 23(b)(2) of the federal rules. Scalia dismissed that effort as “a sort of trial by formula,” which would awards of back pay based on a sample set of plaintiffs. “Wal-Mart is entitled to individualized determinations of each employee’s eligibility for back pay,” Scalia said.
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