WASHINGTON – Dozens of people rallied outside the Supreme Court on Wednesday to mark the one-year anniversary of a ruling that made it more difficult for employees to file discrimination lawsuits against their employers.
The ruling blocked a class action lawsuit by women who said Wal-Mart discriminated against them.
The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Wal-Mart v. Dukes that a group of women could not file a class action suit,which alleged that female Wal-Mart employees didn’t receive equal pay and promotions. The case would have been the largest class action civil rights suit in history,representing about 1.5 million female employees.
As a result,each woman must file an individual suit,and many have.
Rally participants held up signs that read,“Wal-Mart always discriminates,” while others read,“Fix Wal-Mart v. Dukes.”
The group gathered near the steps of the court on a particularly hot day and chanted before several people spoke,including Betty Dukes,the lead plaintiff and face of the case.
“I want to declare,and I want to make it very plain to you that are gathered here as well as to the American public,I do not think the ruling was fair,and I do not think the ruling was just,so therefore our struggle shall continue for fair pay,equal promotions for all women throughout our wonderful country of democracy,” she said.
Lisa Maatz,director of public policy and government relations at the American Association of University Women,said in an interview after the rally,that this issue is important because it affects everyone.
“When the Supreme Court said that workers could no longer band together to stand up to their boss,to stand up for better wages,to stand up for better benefits,that’s a huge loss,” she said. “Whether we know it or not,each and every one of us is affected by that.”
The AAUW,the Fair Pay Coalition and Dukes sponsored the rally.
The court ruling said that unless the women were alleging identical discriminatory treatment they could not sue as a group. The bill’s sponsors said the legislation would allow groups of employees to sue for discrimination.
“This legislation creates a new judicial procedure called a group action that workers can use to bring discrimination cases against an employer,” Sen. Al Franken,D-Minn.,said. “These group actions mirror the class action procedures that were available to workers before Dukes was decided and restore the right people facing workplace discrimination to band together as they always had.”
Rep. Rosa DeLauro,D-Conn.,said she’s been arguing since last year that a legislative response to the court’s decision was needed “to protect the right of groups of plaintiffs to pursue actions against employment discrimination.
“We reached out to legal experts to fashion a thoughtful,careful and effective response,” she said. “The bill we introduce today,the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act,is that response.”
Reach reporter Jessica Sabbah [email protected] or 202-408-2735. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.