One of the most well known, heavily publicized class action lawsuits brought by workers was actually never completed. Dukes Vs. Wal-Mart began in 2001 when employee Betty Dukes claimed sex discrimination. She insisted that she was denied training needed to advance to a higher paying position and not treated fairly in comparison with male workers. Ultimately a group of women in this regional lawsuit in California all claimed similar experiences, including retaliation for any attempts to address sexual discrimination. These women claimed that they were paid less than men for comparable work, and forced into lower paying departments within the store/company. They also experienced a sexually hostile environment.
The case drug out for years, with a District Court agreeing with the Class Action. But in 2011 by a vote of five judges to four, the Supreme Court sided with Wal-Mart and ruled this was not a certified class action, denying to allow the case. Smaller cases did crop up since then.
Have you heard of the movie, North Country? This was based on an actual class action lawsuit against Taconite Company. 15 female mineworkers alleged that they were subjected to intimidation and harassment by their male coworkers. The Eveleth Mine was in Minnesota. Delay tactics ensued once the suit began, and back and forth the case went for ten years. On the day before the jury trial was set, the case settled out of court and the mining company paid damages to all the women.
And how about this one? The state of Ohio paid out $420 Million to workers in July of 2014. Why? In an interesting twist, this case was actually brought AGAINST the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. This agency was accused of and found guilty of overcharging for workers’ compensation premiums over a seven-year period. Several businesses had sued the Bureau in a 2007 legal case. The Bureau was forced to set up a $420 Million fund to reimburse all businesses that had been overcharged.
Workers compensation covers more than just physical harm and injury that occurs under the duty of working a job. It also covers occupational disease and illness, or sexual harassment as mentioned above.