Handing a valuable and highly symbolic victory to Corporate America, the United States Supreme Court has blocked a huge sexual discrimination lawsuit against retail giant Walmart.
America's highest court yesterday overturned an earlier ruling which would have allowed as many as 1.6 million female Walmart employees to sue the firm for allegedly paying women less than men and for giving them fewer promotions.
In its decision - it was supported by the Supreme Court's five conservative justices and opposed by its four liberal ones - the court ruled the women were in too many different jobs at the firm to wrap into a single lawsuit. Plaintiffs will still be able to pursue individual discrimination suits.
They will find themselves in a David versus Goliath battle, with fewer legal resources, smaller amounts of compensation at stake and less pressure on Walmart to settle.
The decision was celebrated by the US business community, which feared any sex discrimination payout by Walmart could lead to a flood of similar suits against other employers.
Civil rights and women's groups said the decision represented a setback for gender equality.
"The court has told employers that they can rest easy, knowing that the bigger and more powerful they are, the less likely their employees will be able to join together to secure their rights," said Marcia Greenberg of the National Women's Law Centre.