Cassandra Cammarata, Staff Writer:
No matter how much you slice, dice, try to sugar-coat or deny it, the simple fact is that women are paid less than men in the workforce, despite having more experience or more tenure than their male counterparts. Women are paid, on average, three-fourths for weekly earnings of what men are paid who have met the same criteria for the job, according to the United States General Accountability Office report “Women’s Earnings” in 2003. This issue, although omnipresent in the life of a woman, has been rearing it’s head of truth into the thoughts of the public due to the colossal class action lawsuit that is currently being heard by the Supreme Court against the behemoth corporate giant, Walmart. The plaintiffs are comprised of up to 1.6 million women suing the company for discriminating against them in the workplace in terms of pay and promotions in favor for the male workers. Why is there still such disparity between the sexes in the workplaces? And does this case have a strong enough foothold to validate that there is such a disparity and it should not be exploited or taken lightly?
The GAO study said that despite being able to account for most of the differences of pay for men and women (see: work patterns – women have fewer years of experience, leave the work force for a longer period of time and are less likely to choose full-time positions), there was still a margin of disparity unable to be accounted for. This margin can not be explained by math, or by diligently going over the books, it is psychological and societal, ingrained into our psyches’ subconscious, or not, of gender roles. A plaintiff in the Walmart case, Chris Kwapnoski, in an interview with Reuters, recalled that she was told to “brush the cobwebs up” and “doll up” to achieve growth and advancements within the company. There is an inherent biological difference between men and women, which we can plainly see aesthetically. However, this does not mean that men and women should be discriminated based on physical makeup, which you can put on, especially in the workforce and especially in corporate giants who employ low wage-earners who often feel unable to escape the discrimination because they have mouths to feed.
Granted, the suit is a bit more complicated than the plainly laid out regular class action lawsuits; which are brought upon defendants when the plaintiffs believe the former caused harm to them. This is because of the size of the plaintiff pool, which has no specific number yet, because attorneys are still in the process of speaking to the Supreme Court to get approval to proceed with a trial, but the lawyers for the “women of Walmart” believe it will exceed 1 million and may be closer to 1.6 million
Many companies have come to the defense of Walmart, probably because they are concerned for what this may mean for their own fat wallets, and future suits to be brought upon them. But as U.S District Judge Martin Jenkins said when he voted to allow the case to move upward in 2004, “Rough justice is better than the alternative of having no remedy at all for any class member.”
The justices, so far, seem a bit skeptical of the lawsuit, asking who exactly is to blame for the discrimination; the company or the district managers who were the ones giving promotions and in effect, doing the discrimination.
But isn’t there a compliance by the company? You can’t tell me that they were unable to see the disparity of advancements between men and women within some 41 regions operating. And just because you didn’t pull the trigger does not mean that you weren’t an accomplice, or even harboring the criminal. Walmart should not be able to shroud itself behind a veil of company anonymity, as if they are not also made up of people working, just at a higher more profitable margin. I wonder if there is the same issue on the corporate level?
There needs to be reform, and there needs to be an address to the fact that exists in that women are paid less than men, even though they are equally qualified.
Stephanie Odle, an Oklahoma woman who sued Walmart for the same reason 11 years ago, is attending the hearings with her daughter.
“It was a promise I made to her that she was not going to have to go through what I went through, and that I was going to make sure things were different,” said Odle in an interview with the local Oklahoma news station KOCO.
A ruling by the Supreme Court is expected by June.