One story I’m keeping my eye on this week is the Supreme Court hearing Wal-mart vs Dukes. The case was originally brought by 6 female employees 10 years ago, and this week the Supreme Court will not decide if the women were discriminated against, but rather IF they can proceed with the trial as a class-action suit (representing multiple people).
The Supreme Court will decide this week whether the lawsuit can move forward, making it the largest employment discrimination civil action lawsuit ever, or whether it is unfair to Walmart for the complaints to be pursued as class-action. The group claims to represent between 500,000-1.6 million women who “have described how male workers with less seniority were promoted and paid more and have talked of a culture of female stereotyping, of being called “Janie Qs” and told to wear cosmetics and “doll up.” As the SF Chronicle reports, “One of the plaintiffs, Chris Kwapnoski, says she asked a supervisor at the Sam’s Club in Concord, what was holding her back from promotion. She recalls getting a curt reply: “Blow the cobwebs off your makeup and doll up.”
USA Today reports that the lead attorneys for the women highlight startling statistics: “While women comprise over 80% of hourly supervisors, they hold only one-third of store management jobs and their ranks steadily diminish at each successive step in the management hierarchy.” Further, the lawyers say “statistics show that women’s pay lags that of men in every major job in each of the company’s 41 regions. The NWLC, NAACP, and ACLU have filed briefs supporting the women.
The US Chamber of Commerce filed a brief supporting Walmart (big surprise) setting this up to be a test of the Supreme Court’s business bias–remember when corporations were recently declared to have the same right to free speech as people?
So, what exactly is at stake here? As Slate reports, the implication of the ruling is huge: “Wal-Mart’s lawyers have sought to portray the lawsuit as ludicrous, given its size and scope. Lawyers for the plaintiffs say size alone should have no bearing on the case’s legitimacy. By throwing out the case, one lawyer said it would be sending a damaging message: “As long as you discriminate against enough people, courts can’t get involved.”
These women have spent 10 years using the country’s legal resources to prove sex discrimination. If they can’t move forward, there will be a powerful message sent to the women of this country: You are worth less than men, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
Who says we don’t need the ERA?