National Partnership for Women & Families

America's Continuing Commitment to Equal Opportunity Is at Stake in 'Wal-Mart v. Dukes' Case, Women's Leader Says

Statement of Debra L. Ness, President, National Partnership for Women & Families
Washington, D.C. — March 29, 2011 —
"The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes will have tremendous consequences not just for the women who work at Wal-Mart, but for women all across the country who need fair pay and fair opportunities for advancement. If victims of employment discrimination cannot come together as a group, countless incidents of discrimination will go without remedy and civil rights in this country will suffer tremendously. So will women and the families that rely on their incomes.

As the Supreme Court hears oral argument in the largest civil rights class action lawsuit in America’s history, women all around the country are experiencing discrimination in the workplace. Some recognize the injustice but fear retaliation or job loss if they speak up. Others may not know that their rights have been violated. This case is about whether or not these women and other victims of workplace discrimination have the right to come together as a class — no matter its size — to challenge their employers’ pervasive, unlawful actions. The answer must be yes. America’s continuing commitment to equal opportunity is at stake in this case.

Promotions and pay decisions should be based on neutral, relevant criteria without bias or stereotypes. There is ample evidence that Wal-Mart’s policies failed to establish such a fair, objective standard and that the company engaged in widespread, systemic discrimination as a result. A company-wide problem requires a company-wide solution, and that is why it is critical that these women be allowed to proceed to trial as a class.

The courageous women of Wal-Mart have spent 10 years fighting for their day in court to challenge unfair pay and promotion practices. We applaud their perseverance and their determination to fight for justice, even against the nation’s largest and arguably most powerful private employer.

At a time when, on average, women are paid only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, the Court must confirm women’s right to challenge systemic discrimination. Any other ruling would set a dangerous and damaging precedent. Class action lawsuits have long been essential in helping win justice for those who would otherwise not have the financial means or the familiarity with anti-discrimination laws to vindicate their rights. Now is not the time to dismantle this indispensable tool. "

Contact

Sadie Kliner (202) 986-2600 skliner@nationalpartnership.org

The National Partnership for Women & Families is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group dedicated to promoting fairness in the workplace, access to quality health care and policies that help women and men meet the dual demands of work and family. More information is available at www.NationalPartnership.org.

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