The class action of women employees against Wal-Mart for discrimination has been shut down by the Supreme Court. 1.5 million women have been told that they must pursue individual actions against the retail giant. According to the Supreme Court, women cannot be discriminated against, only individuals can be. It appears that discrimination in America is over, according to the Supreme Court its not possible to discriminate against groups of people.
According to the BBC: “The women, led by a group of named plaintiffs, sought back pay and punitive damages for the class of women, saying the company passed female employees over for promotion and paid them less.”
The Supreme Court judge Justice Antonin Scalia claims that the plaintiffs could not show a systemic prejudice against women despite the overwhelming evidence presented:
“Without some glue holding the alleged reasons for all those decisions together, it will be impossible to say that examination of all the class members’ claims for relief will produce a common answer to the crucial question ‘why was I disfavoured.'”
– (in)Justice Antonin Scalia
This decision by the Supreme Court shows the continuing destruction of a major way corporations are held accountable for their criminal actions. It also signals a serious defeat of the legal peaceful means workers have in defending their rights.
What this means in real terms is that in order to bring a class action lawsuit, employees have to demonstrate that a deliberate discrimination policy was explicitly adopted. Meaning that you literally need corporate paperwork ordering that the discrimination take place. Since we well know that these things are made policy not in the explicit, but “unofficially” without paperwork, it is now almost impossible to bring a class action suit.
The bigger impact of the case is clear: The ruling did not declare that the women were not discriminated against. It ruled that the women didn’t have the right to sue. This action by female workers to defend themselves was essentially killed before it even went to court.
The typical pro-corporate defence of these types of rulings is “the Supreme Court has signalled that it wants job bias disputes handled in the workplace”. The ignorance of this is displayed in the fact that solving it in the work place doesn’t work. This statement is a polite way of telling workers to just shut up and know their place.
The Supreme court, hand-picked by Republicans to be anti-worker, made a predictable decision. Now, more than ever before in recent history, is the time for a major resurgence of unions. The folks who say unions are somehow no longer necessary have been proven dead wrong.
If the courts in the service of big business continue to attack and destroy the rights of workers… It may become necessary to use “other means” in which to defend their rights from the fascism that is capitalism.