Walmart Decision Raises the Question, How Will Women Achieve a Fair Workplace?

Judy PatrickBy Judy Patrick, CEO and President, Women’s Foundation of California

One of the first news items I heard on Monday was the result of the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. I was disheartened to hear that the Court decided that 1.6 million women did not have enough in common to pursue a nationwide class action demanding equal pay and opportunity for promotions. Later in the day, I spoke with Arcelia Hurtado, executive director of Equal Rights Advocates (ERA)*, a civil rights organization dedicated to advancing equal opportunity for women, to learn a little bit more about the future of the case.

The conversation raised my spirits a bit. ERA, the Impact Fund and three private law firms have guided Dukes v. Wal-Mart from the lower courts to the US Supreme Court. While the decision is a setback, Wal-mart and Sam’s Club female employees who think they have been discriminated against can still take part in a class action suit. ERA will be reviewing potential class members, assessing their claims, and determining the appropriate potential classes to group them into. Here’s a website dedicated to Walmart employees who want to pursue a claim. 

Because there’s more than one way to achieve the ultimate goal – a fair workplace in which women and men are paid equal wages for comparable work – we urge you to support pending legislation, called the Paycheck Fairness Act. This legislation would ensure equal pay for equal work, deter companies from breaking the law, and provide real remedies for those who experience pay discrimination. Please urge your congressional representatives to support the Act.

Arcelia pointed out that had the Paycheck Fairness Act been in place 10 years ago, many women in this case might not have suffered the same kind of unlawful pay discrimination. So the time is now!

Ultimately, human rights and civil rights victories often take years to achieve. They take persistence, bravery and the willingness to endure setbacks and take small steps forward. In this case of Dukes v. Wal-Mart, a 10 year struggle and an uphill battle, it has also taken the combined efforts of different allies: foundations, individual donors, non-profit law firms and the passionate courageous plaintiffs.

Here’s a link to a brief video produced by the Rosenberg Foundation that features some of these incredibly passionate and committed people who have been part of this long battle. They remain committed to taking the next steps to realize a nation in which women and men equally enjoy the fruits of their labor.

 *Since 1998, the Women’s Foundation of California has supported ERA with grants totaling $183,500 for their groundbreaking work to advance equal opportunity for women in the work place.

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