In a unanimous opinion, the Supreme Court tossed out a massive sex-discrimination suit against Wal-Mart, stating that the 1.5 million women who would have been affected by the case may not proceed as a class. The Court ruled that the plaintiff's lawyers, who would have succeeded in trying the largest class action suit in the country's history, "improperly sued under a part of the class action rules that was not primarily concerned with monetary claims, the Times reports. In the related claim of whether or not the plaintiffs proved that "there are questions of law or fact common to the class," the court split along ideological lines 5-4, with Scalia's opinion [pdf] for the majority stating that the plaintiffs failed to prove "a common answer to the crucial question why was I disfavored." (Italics his.)

Citing the "millions of employment decisions" that happen in a company as colossal as Wal-Mart, Scalia rejected the plaintiffs' testimony of a sociologist who studied Wal-Mart's practices and concluded that a "centralized personnel policy" and "allowing subjective decisions by managers in the field" led to fewer promotions and lower wages for women working at Wal-Mart. Writing for the minority, which included all three women justices, Justice Ginsburg pointed to the fact that "women filled 70 percent of the hourly jobs but only 33 percent of management positions," and that, "Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware."

The lawsuit was filed in 2001 by Betty Dukes, who claimed she was denied opportunities to advance within the company despite positive performance reviews. In a press release, Christine Quinn, who is said to be negotiating a deal that may bring Wal-Mart to New York City, said that the Supreme Court's decision "all but assured that many of the plaintiffs in this case will never have their day in Court. Wal-Mart's well-documented history of employee mistreatment needs to be addressed." Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez added, "Although the Court's decision is a miscarriage of justice, all of us must keep fighting wage equality."

Dukes herself predicts that this is only the beginning, telling the Washington Post, "My voice has been heard, but I'm not the only Betty Dukes in this country."