A U.S. District Court judge in Charlotte has dismissed a class-action lawsuit that accuses the Family Dollar discount-store chain of discriminating against female employees.
The plaintiffs in Scott v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc. failed to meet the standard for class claims set by the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. determined in a Jan. 13 order.
Cogburn appears to be the first federal judge in the country to interpret the Dukes ruling in a potential nationwide class-action employment suit, according to the head of Family Dollar’s defense team, John R. Wester of Robinson, Bradshaw & Hinson in Charlotte. His colleagues David C. Wright III and Adam K. Doerr also represent the company.
A class-action gender discrimination lawsuit against the Carolina-based Family Dollar chain of discount stores has been lingering in the U.S. District Court in Charlotte since 2008, but the case will reach a crossroads this week.
At issue is whether the plaintiffs in Scott v. Family Dollar Stores, Inc. should be allowed to change their original complaint in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling earlier this year in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Judge Max O. Cogburn Jr. will hear arguments Nov. 22 on the plaintiffs’ motion to amend and the defense’s motion to dismiss the class action. The fate of the case essentially hangs in the balance of Cogburn’s ruling.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to deny class action status to a group of women suing Wal-Mart for discrimination will roil the practice of employment law in North Carolina and across the country.
“I think this is going to have a very sobering impact on discrimination-based class action cases,” said Corie Pauling, chairwoman of the North Carolina Bar Association’s Labor & Employment Law Section.
Many also expect the Wal-Mart ruling to be one that will get a lot of mileage from lawyers.
“This is going to come up now every time you have a national client involved,” said M. Malissa Burnette, a specialist in employment and labor law with Callison Tighe & Robinson in Columbia, S.C. “For plaintiffs who attempt to do a lot of class actions, this is going to be a big deal.”