News and information useful to Cleveland-Marshall College of Law students, faculty and staff.

Wal-Mart Case Imposes Higher Standards for Employee Class Actions

The U.S. Supreme Court held that the Wal-Mart employees claiming sex discrimination did not show sufficient commonality to maintain class action status.  The decision will affect other large employee class action suits currently pending.  See Supreme Court erects major barriers to class actions in Wal-Mart ruling –

General Tel. Co. of Sw. v. Falcon, 457 U.S. 147 (1982) held that one way to prove commonality is to show that the employer operated under a general policy of discrimination.  The plaintiffs in Wal-Mart attempted to show Wal-Mart operated under a general policy of discrimination.

According to the court, the only corporate policy that the plaintiffs’ evidence convincingly showed was Wal-Mart’s policy of giving discretion to its local supervisors over employment matters. “On its face … that is just the opposite of a uniform employment practice that would provide the commonality needed for a class action; it is a policy against having uniform employment practices,” it said.

Discrimination Suit Against Wal-Mart Not Appropriate for Class Certification, U.S. Law Week.

The Court will next address the validity of another class action lawsuit, Philip Morris USA, Inc., et al., v. Jackson (docket 10-735).  “That is a case that turns entirely on constitutional questions — a massive class-action lawsuit against the nation’s major cigarette companies in Louisiana state court that resulted in an award of $270 million to a class of former smokers.”  Opinion analysis: Wal-Mart‘s two messages – Scotus blog.  The impact of the Wal-Mart case is unclear, as Wal-Mart deals with Fed.Civ.R. 23, and Philip Morris deals with state civil rules.

More articles:
Supreme Court limits Walmart sex bias case –  The Plain Dealer
Supreme Court rules for Wal-Mart in massive job discrimination lawsuit – CNN

Photo: Wal-Mart, Houghton Lake By wachovia_138

Ohio Recognizes Common Law Retaliatory Discharge Claim for Reporting Workplace Injury

hazardous workplaceFrom the Ohio Supreme Court’s Case Summaries:

“The Supreme Court of Ohio ruled today that R.C. 4123.90, a state law that prohibits the firing of workers in retaliation for filing workers’ compensation claims, expresses a clear public policy against the retaliatory firing of injured employees, including those who are fired before filing a workers’ compensation claim.  Therefore,  Ohio recognizes a common law (non-statutory) tort claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy when an employee is fired after reporting a workplace injury to his employer but before initiating a workers’ compensation claim.”

Sutton v. Tomco Machining, Inc., Slip Opinion No. 2011-Ohio-2723.

Photo: by GPC Learning

New ADA Regulations Make Proving Disability Easier

New regulations (76 FR 16999), effective May 24, 2011, pertaining to the Americans with Disabilities Act make a broader interpretation of the definition of disability.   The result will probably be more employees requesting accommodations, more ADA litigation and more ADA cases surviving a defense motion for summary judgment.   See Karen Sloan, Way Smoothed for Disability Claims, National Law Journal, May 16, 2011.   Also see some of the many law firm client newsletters summarizing the regulations.  Franz Ward, Husch Blackwell, McDonald Hopkins.

Preliminary Referendum Petition for SB 5

A short version and long version of the Preliminary Referendum Petition for Am. Sub. S. B. No. 5 was filed with the Ohio Attorney General and Secretary of State.   See the Ohio Secretary of State’s web page, which sets out the procedure for a referendum and cites to provisions of the Ohio Constitution and Ohio Revised Code establishing the procedure. Once the Attorney General certifies the petition, a required minimum of 231,149 valid signatures must be gathered,  equal to 6% of the total number of votes cast for Governor in 2010. The signatures must also meet the minimum distribution requirement of 3% of gubernatorial vote in 44 counties.  When the required signatures are gathered and verified, the people of Ohio may vote on whether the General Assembly’s law will go into effect .

Ohio Bill on Non-Discrimination for Breast Feeding Introduced

HB488, introduced earlier this week in the Ohio General Assembly, is a bill to expand the prohibition against sex discrimination to include lactation and breast feeding at work. The language of the bill provides that:

“[a]n employer shall provide to each lactating employee reasonable, unpaid time each day to permit the lactating employee to express breast milk…”

and further

“[a]n employer shall make a reasonable effort to provide a sanitary room or other area in close proximity to the work area, that is not a toilet stall, where a lactating employee can express breast milk in privacy.”

Ohio Capitol Connection is a database you can use to keep up with all recent developments at the Ohio General Assembly.