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Supreme Court blocks huge class-action suit against Wal-Mart

The ruling in the suit, filed on behalf of as many as 1.5 million female employees, may all but end big class-action cases that seek money from employers for discrimination.

June 21, 2011|By David G. Savage, Washington Bureau

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce applauded the court for ruling that "bet-the-business blockbuster class actions" were unfair and were "completely inconsistent with federal law," said Robin Conrad, lawyer and vice president for the chamber.

She said anti-discrimination law was based on the idea that individuals bring a claim of mistreatment. Business lawyers portrayed huge class-action claims as a scheme to enrich plaintiffs' lawyers at the expense of employers.

Class-action discrimination claims were a product of the civil rights era of the 1960s. In the early years, many suits accused employers, such as trucking firms, construction companies or police departments, of refusing to hire or promote blacks. Often, these cases resulted in an agreement to change the hiring practices.

In recent decades, federal courts — with the exception of the U.S. appeals courts in San Francisco and New York — have frowned on class-action claims that seek money on behalf of a large group of employees who say they were victims of discrimination.

david.savage@latimes.com

Times staff writer Salvador Rodriguez in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

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