By ignoring the clear common questions at stake in this case, the Court could insulate large corporations from complying with our laws and allow them to hide behind written policies of nondiscrimination, even when a company fosters a culture of bias and stereotypes. As Justice Ginsburg said in her vigorous dissent on the issue of whether women workers at Wal-Mart had enough in common to proceed as a class: 'Managers, like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware. The risk of discrimination is heightened when those managers are predominantly of one sex, and are steeped in a corporate culture that perpetuates gender stereotypes.' We strongly agree.
Particularly now, when families rely more than ever on women’s earnings, women need fair pay and fair opportunities for advancement. Today’s ruling sets a dangerous precedent that will make it easier for employers — especially large ones — to discriminate against their employees while, at the same time, making it harder for workers to come together to challenge it. This creation of a potential ‘large company’ exception to our civil rights laws is a perversion of justice.
The women of Wal-Mart have spent 10 years fighting for their day in court to challenge unfair pay and promotion practices. Today’s decision was not a judgment on the merits of their discrimination claims, only on whether or not they could continue with the case as one group.
Wal-Mart’s actions are part of a larger pattern of discrimination against women in pay and promotions that plague our nation. Women in the United States are still paid, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. They hold only 40 percent of management positions and one out of six corporate officer positions. This decision underscores the need for a federal law, like the Paycheck Fairness Act, that will help prevent pay discrimination. If such a law had been in place 10 years ago, many women in this case would not have suffered from unlawful treatment.
We applaud the women of Wal-Mart for their perseverance and their determination to fight for justice. We will continue to support them as they challenge the company’s discriminatory practices. In the meantime, Congress must act quickly to permanently close loopholes in our anti-discrimination laws and strengthen penalties for employers who break them by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act."
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.