The Supreme Court heard opening arguments on behalf (and against) up to a million women today to determine the class action status of a Wal-Mart employment discrimination case. Those of us who’ve been following the case know what’s at stake if the court finds in favor of Wal-Mart: Not only would the corporate juggernaut responsible for filling your house with cheap plastic crap be more or less let off the hook for systematized sex discrimination, it would become harder for victims of job bias to secure class-action status, forcing low-wage workers to try their cases individually – virtually ensuring no future employee litigation case ever reaches viability, ever.
Dire, no? First, a brief history of the arguments for and against (more or less) from the magazine Corporate Counsel:
In certifying the class, the lower court said it found that there was significant evidence of centralized corporate-wide practices involving sexual stereotyping and excessive subjectivity in personnel decisions, as well as statistical evidence of gender disparities, and anecdotal evidence of gender bias. The court said it saw a “common pattern” of Wal-Mart’s discriminating against women workers nationwide.
In its brief to the Court, Wal-Mart argues that millions of discretionary personnel decisions on pay and promotions by thousands of individual managers defy any common pattern of treatment.
Let’s entertain Wal-Mart’s counterargument, shall we? From a purely feminist theory perspective, this argument actually holds some water. Why? Because those “millions of discretionary personnel decisions on pay and promotions by thousands of individual managers” were surely not solely influenced by the Long Arm of Corporate America (although surely that played a not-insignificant part), they were also influenced by the sexism that runs rampant through every fiber of society’s fabric.
So instead of suing Wal-Mart*, let’s certify every victim of the existing gender wage gap (read: all women worldwide) as members of a giant class action against the patriarchy. Since millions of discretionary personnel decisions are made every single day by managers who really ARE independent and not affiliated with Wal-Mart, but they’re made to consistently favor men in terms of power, prestige, and money, it’s clear that there is significant evidence of centralized worldwide practices involving sexual stereotyping, gender disparities, and gender bias.
Let’s sue the patriarchy! Who’s with me?
*Actually, not instead of, in addition to. Wal-Mart deserves to get sued, a lot. And so does every company that filed an Amicus Brief in support of Wal-Mart’s Evil Anti-Largesse.