By Corinna Barnard
Saturday, June 25, 2011
The High Court's decision this week to disqualify about 1.5 million female Wal-Mart workers from bringing a class action gave mega corporations a big win over the workers. Three of the four dissenting justices were women.
The justices, meanwhile, said nothing about the women's underlying charge of bias on pay and promotion. Those fights are yet to come; possibly store-by-store and region-by-region, according to a plaintiff's lawyer quoted by The New York Times.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the dissenting opinion and was joined by Justice Stephen Breyer and the two other women on the court: Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
Ginsburg would have allowed the Wal-Mart women to proceed with their case under another class-action category. She spoke out against the court disqualifying the women "at the starting gate," according to a story in The New York Times. She also cited the low proportion of women in management--30 percent--given the female-majority work force.
Could managers with a broad leeway in determining who gets paid what and who gets promoted all be subject to the same male bias? Ginsburg didn't think it could be ruled out. "Managers like all humankind, may be prey to biases of which they are unaware," she wrote.
This enormous, time-consuming, 10-year case is likely to sensitize managers far beyond the walls of Wal-Mart stores to gender bias. But whether they decide to change anything could depend on the multiple law suits still to come, brought by individual women and smaller groups of workers.
Lead plaintiff Betty Dukes and other women are vowing to push on.
Women's advocacy groups have protested the decision, according to Ms. Magazine's Feminist Wire. On June 21, many rallied outside the Supreme Court and rallies were held in other cities, including San Francisco, Boston, New York and Philadelphia.
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Corinna Barnard is editor of Women's eNews.
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