WASHINGTON - Wal-Mart will file its brief to the U.S. Supreme Court arguing against the legality of a class of current and former women employees who have filed a Title VII employment discrimination case against the company. Below is a statement from National WomenÂs Law Center (NWLC) Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger:
ÂTen years ago a group of women employees sued Wal-Mart, claiming the company discriminated against them by paying them lower wages and giving them fewer promotions than men Âeven when they had higher performance ratings and more seniority than their male counterparts. The case, now before the Supreme Court, raises a critical question about the ability of employees to join together as a group to legally challenge employer practices that have broad impact across a workforce. The decision will have significant implications not only for the hundreds of thousands of female employees of Wal-Mart but also for women working in other fields and for other employers across the country.
ÂIf the Supreme Court were to limit the ability of women to assert their rights as a group, it would be tantamount to closing the courthouse door on large numbers of women across the country who donÂt have the means to file their own cases. Moreover, if women cannot be part of a large class, it becomes far more difficult for the court to consider an employerÂs widespread pattern of discrimination, thereby letting discriminating employers off the hookÂat enormous cost to the many women who are injured. Without employeesÂ ability to come together as a group, employers can count on avoiding full accountability for their discrimination.
ÂNowhere is accountability more important than in the retail sector, where the wage gap between men and women is the highest among all industries. Annual earnings data show that women working full time are paid 77 cents for each dollar earned by a man. National WomenÂs Law Center analysis of the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistics data demonstrates that full-time female workers in sales earned less than two-thirds (64.6 percent) of their male counterpartsÂ weekly wages in the third quarter of 2010. The last time women as a whole suffered from such a large gap was in 1981, when women earned just 64.4 percent of menÂs earnings. This means that women in sales are approximately 30 years behind female workers on the whole in terms of the wage gap.
ÂWal-Mart, the largest retailer in the country, employs hundreds of thousands of women. Many of these womenÂlike millions of other women across the countryÂare earning less than their male counterparts. If the Supreme Court upholds the lower courtÂs decision, the women of Wal-Mart will have a true chance to equalize pay and promotions. And the Supreme Court will reaffirm the long-established legal principle that no company is too big or too powerful to dodge accountability.Â
The National Women's Law Center is a non-profit organization that has been working since 1972 to advance and protect women's legal rights. The Center focuses on major policy areas of importance to women and their families including economic security, education, employment and health, with special attention given to the concerns of low-income women.