Thursday, April 21, 2011
News Flash: Save Money. Pay Women Less.
Save Money. Pay Women Less.
The largest employment discrimination lawsuit in American history is Dukes vs. Wal-Mart. This case is being fought on behalf of 1.5 million current and former Wal-Mart employees over discrimination in pay and promotion. What connects these 1.5 million people? They are all female.
The case began in 1999 when Stephanie Odle was fired from Wal-Mart after complaining of sexual discrimination. This New York Times article explains how women from across America have joined together to fight for their rights: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/opinion/07thu1.html?_r=1&scp=2&sq=women&st=cse. Wal-Mart denies the discrimination, but that is not their main defense. Wal-Mart’s lawyers argue that there is not enough “cohesion” among the women to justify treating them as a single class. The plaintiffs may have differences, but all of them have experienced sexual discrimination at the hands of Wal-Mart, and they are tired of it. Together these inspirational women are trying to prove that if their sex is enough in common for all of them to be paid less than men in the same positions as them, they have enough in common to sue for sexual discrimination. Their fight to stop sexism in the workplace is surely a case for all womankind.
Christine Kwapnoski is one of the main six women suing Wal-Mart. When she told her boss that she wanted a promotion he told her to, “blow the cobwebs off your makeup” and to “doll up” in order to advance. Kwanpnoski joined the other women suing Wal-Mart for practical reasons. Filing a suit against one of the world’s largest corporation would be too costly and stand little-to-no chance of ever being heard.
Sexism in the workplace is nothing new. Since the founding of America (and it seems the world) discrimination against women has perpetuated. Wal-Mart’s sexual discrimination is also common. Many large corporations exploit women, “Nike, the largest athletic footwear in the world, posted a record $298 million profit for 1993” uses women globally to make a profit (Enloe 44). Wal-Mart and Nike use similar techniques in how they treat women. Nike might exploit women more globally compared to Wal-Mart, who in this case, exploit women in the U.S.; the connection is women being exploited. Women are vulnerable to sexual discrimination in the workplace because jobs are so competitive, thus women are afraid if they complain they might get fired.
Society today says that women are separate but equal from men. Sexism is supposed to be dead, but as demonstrated in Wal-Mart’s case this is incorrect. In Leading the Way, author Anuradha Shyam writes about the sexism that South Asian women face. She is speaking of South Asian women when she says, “It is expected that we behave with deference and modesty at home, but it is imperative that we demonstrate assertiveness and decisiveness in the corporate world” but this statement can be applied to most women living in America (179). The fact that women have consistently earned less to a man’s dollar in America proves sexism is not gone, but Wal-Mart claims to be the exception.
Wal-Mart might be arguing that it does not discriminate, but the evidence speaks for itself. The sheer overwhelming number of women claiming to have been discriminated against cannot be a coincidence. This picture shows the difference between men and women’s income:
The evidence is clear, but the judges' decision may not be. To side with the plaintiffs the Supreme Court would need to go against the largest private employer in America. In 2009, the Court denied a big business case against a woman, so until early summer (when the decision is most likely to come out) everyone will have to wait to see the decision. The real issue is, will the highest court in America decide if being female is enough to treat them as a single class? Would their decision be different if the defendants were all male? What began as a grievance over pay and promotion among a handful of women at Wal-Mart has turned into the largest sex discrimination lawsuit in America. No matter the ending, the six women who have filed this lawsuit have proved what women can accomplish when they come together.
Enloe, Cynthia H. The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire/Berkley: University of California Press, 2004. Print
“Wal-Mart vs. Women.” Editorial. The New York Times 7 April 2011, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/opinion/07thu1.html?sq=walmart%20wome n&st=cse&scp=1&pagewanted=print.
Trigg, Mary K., ed. Leading the Way: young women’s activism for social change. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2010. Print.