This Tuesday the Supreme Court is set to hear possibly the largest discrimination case in a work place in American history. The Dukes vs. Wal-Mart case was filed in the year 2001 by Betty Dukes bringing together more than 1.5 million women working for Wal-Mart and who allegedly had been victims of sexual discrimination in the hands of the employer. According to the article by Thomson Ford the biggest task in the hands of the plaintiff is to prove the viability of the case, that is to show that number of the women that are claimed to have been victims of the discrimination were indeed put through similar discriminatory conditions and thus the court can rule the same at one go.
According to the article the purpose of a class action case such as this particular one is to save the court time and even resources by gathering together the cases with similar complaints and hearing them in a single filing. This ensures that the court does not hear many cases with similar conditions and complaints.
In this case then the question to be answered is whether the women in question were put through similar conditions and more importantly whether the party responsible for the said atrocities is Wal-Mart. Whereas this is seemingly a small case Thomson views in his article that it will have far reaching bearing in the application of class action in the future discrimination cases. In this particular case the complaint is that a culture of sexism saw the company discriminating against women working the company. The complainant has picked a sample a hundred and twenty women who have allegedly been victims of discrimination. In the time of the filing of the case according to the complainant about three quarters of the sales employees getting paid on hourly basis were women and only a third of women were managers.
According to sociologist William Bielby who is one of those enlisted to testify the company has no specific means or criteria for awarding promotions and raises thus making it possible to be influenced by sexism and other stereotypical biases. She states that Wal-Mart has given the power to branch managers to decide on promotions and raises basing on subjective measures thus there is no measurable way of determining why a person was promote while the other was not and the result of this has been the discrimination of women.
On its part Wal-Mart does not deny the said charges but instead seeks to prove that they are not warranted to be in the category of class action and should therefore not be accorded class certificate. Wal-Mart states that the discretion to give raises or accord promotions among other decisions have are on the hands of the branch managers and if it is true that some of the women employees may have been violated in one way or another they should file cases individually against their particular stores. This is because there is common rule or regulation that binds the decisions of the managers and therefore the complains do not have the basis of common law and fact. However judge Alex Kozinsky differed with this argument stating whereas there are different managers and different Wal-Mart stores in different locations guidd by similarly different rules and regulations there was a commonality in the sense that the majority of those presenting the case were women alleging to have been violated by a common party, Wal-Mart and with that affirmed the class certification.
To prove their point the plaintiffs have relied on statistical findings which show that the employer picks its managers from the hourly wage employees who are primarily women but even then only a third of the manager comprises the women population. The data presented by the plaintiff show that women present less than 10 percent of store managers and about four percent of the district managers. They then compare this to the statistics of the twenty closest Wal-Mart’s competitors who have about 56 percent of its management team coming from the women population.
For these findings to stand the test however they should also inculcate other factors that determine the choices of employers in the labor market. What is inherent is for the plaintiffs to compare the demographic qualities of the hourly wage workforce with what is needed for one to make into the management team and if there are no sex disparities in the qualifications then there should similarly be not disparities in those picked for the positions. For instance if there are fewer qualified women for the managerial position compare to the men from the hourly paid workforce then it is expected that there will be fewer women from the said workforce in the management team. In that case then this case would not be admissible. According to Thomson however the fact that Wal-Mart is a big company with equally big workforce highly reduces the likelihood that these small demographic disparities are possible. Thus the case might work in the plaintiffs’ favor.
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In my view the assertions by the defendant the different stores are ran by different managers is not convincing because of the mere fact that the managers themselves are employees of the company and their decisions to hire, fire or any other decision for that matter is made on behalf of the employer and thus the it is the employer that is responsible for the same. This is also in the light of the notion that once a party is sued and specifically a corporate one like Wal-Mart the complainant does not have to get into the details of the running of the company. All they need to do is prove by use of statistics or other means to show that indeed they were violated. Thus I believe that the complainant have a case because they have presented the statistics as well as a representative sample of women to prove that sex discrimination is rife in the organization. The defendant must have realized how much of a losing battle they are fighting and explains why they had chosen dispute the admissibility of the class action instead of trying to prove their innocence from the accusations discrimination.
The only challenge present in the Dukes vs. Wal-Mart however is the one of proving the magnitude with which a particular woman was discriminated. Thomson explains the impracticability of a court hearing a case that comprise more than a million plaintiffs like this one is the fact that should they win a problem will arise in sharing the compensation for the damages. This is because the court is supposed to use a mathematical formula that equally distributes the money to all those who were aggrieved. Thomson states that concern is that some women in this particular case could have discriminated by chance and not intent and should the plaintiff win they will share the compensation money with those who were more seriously discriminated. It is however a good thing if the plaintiffs win whether or not they share the compensation money in justifiable criteria. This is because most of the women represented in the case are poor and would not afford to file individual cases and even if they did the compensation would not be rewarding.
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According to the article what is at stake in the question of whether Class action is going to be a successful means of ensuring that social justice is respected and that those who violate it are help to account. The cost of losing a class action case by corporate party like the Wal-Mart is massive and this could be the only effective way of curbing the prevalent issues of discrimination in work places. Thomson for instance states that since the case was file ten years ago Wal-Mart has been treating it female employees in a more equitable manner.
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