On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court is slated to consider arguments in a sprawling gender discrimination lawsuit against the nation’s biggest retailer. In an unprecedented hearing, the court will determine whether the sex-discrimination claims involving Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. will evolve into a class action lawsuit. The case has tremendous financial implications for the colossal retailer, as the original suit dates back to 2001, alleging that Wal-Mart discriminated against women on matters of equal compensation and job advancement. If the lawsuit advances, the payout could exceed billions of dollars in retroactive pay and other reported damages. Moreover, the decision could spell unparalleled opportunities for businesses and employees to speak out against unjust hiring practices, employment biases and all forms of corporate discrimination.
This latest case has been gaining momentum for the past ten years and, while Wal-Mart has previously faced similar allegations involving discriminatory practices, it’s distressing that it’s taken a decade to get this issue on the radar.
While Wal-Mart remains the largest private employer in the U.S., employees have harshly criticized both the workplace environment and corporate culture that have contributed to its retail stature. This particular lawsuit alleges women were paid less than men for comparable job positions, despite having achieved greater seniority and better performance reviews.
Gender discrimination is demoralizing and being treated as a ‘second-class citizen’ has severe corollaries for women and their families.
The consequences of gender discrimination should be recognized as an integral part of women’s health concerns. It follows as a critical and strategic consideration that if a woman is not afforded equal access to pay and benefits, there is an intrinsically negative effect on her ability to access quality health care and satisfy other elements of emotional wellbeing. The court’s ruling on the Wal-Mart case will represent a landmark decision, in terms of gaining or losing the traction necessary to eliminate gender-based job discrimination.
- Leslie E. (author)