Search This Blog

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Ellis v. Costco: On Remand Following Dukes, Ninth Circuit Vacates Order Granting Certification in Discrimination Action

The theory of liability in Dukes v. Wal-Mart (discussed here) is that a company's policy of allowing local decision-makers to make hiring and promotion decisions can have a disparate impact on women and violate Title VII.  Brad Seligman, lead counsel for the plaintiffs in Dukes, has said that this is a very narrow and rarely used theory.  Regardless, the same theory is at issue in another of Seligman's cases, Ellis v. Costco Wholesale Corporation, 657 F.3d 970 (9th Cir. 9/16/11). 

On remand following the SCOTUS decision in Wal-Mart, the Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's order granting class certification under Federal Rules 23(b)(2) and 23(b)(3).  The Court held as follows:
  1. Because at least one named plaintiff (Sasaki) alleged a concrete injury that is both directly traceable to Costco's allegedly discriminatory practices and is redressable by both injunctive relief and monetary damages, the Court affirmed the district court's holding that she had standing to pursue the action.
  2. The Court  vacated and remanded the district court's ruling as to commonality under Rule 23(a) because the district court failed to conduct the required “rigorous analysis” to determine whether there were common questions of law or fact among the class members' claims and instead relied on the admissibility of the plaintiffs' evidence to reach its conclusion on commonality.
  3. The Court vacated the district court's ruling as to typicality under Rule 23(a) because the district court failed to consider the effect that defenses unique to the named Plaintiffs' claims have on that question. 
  4. The Court affirmed the district court's ruling that Sasaki, a current employee who continues to be denied promotion, has incentive to vigorously pursue injunctive relief as well as monetary damages on behalf of all the class members and is an adequate class representative under Rule 23(a).  However, the Court vacated the district court's finding that the other named plaintiffs, as former employees with "no incentive" to pursue injunctive relief, could adequately represent the class. 
  5. In light of Wal-Mart's rejection of the predominance test under Rule 23(b)(2), the Court vacated the district court's certification of the class under that Rule and remanded for the district court to consider whether the claims for various forms of monetary relief will require individual determinations and are therefore only appropriate for a Rule 23(b)(3) class. 
The opinion is available here

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.