A million monkeys hammering randomly on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the works of Shakespeare. So I guess it was in the cards that the determinately whacky San Francisco-based Ninth Circuit would eventually write a decision that made sense.
Sure enough, the Ninth Circuit ruled last month in favor of a class action pay and promotion gender bias suit filed by female Wal-Mart workers. That means that sometime before those monkeys complete their rendering of the complete works of Dostoyevsky in the original Russian, the case involving Wal-Mart’s systematically paying women less than men may and keeping the change may – just may – go before a jury.
So why does a most-of-the-time libertarian, occasional recalcitrant right-wing national security hawk and full-time male hale socking it to Wal-Mart – even if it makes AT LARGE’s next purchase of socks produced by Third World kids a penny or two more expensive?
Well first, paying women less than men for doing the same job is against the law. (Just like crossing U.S. borders without papers, tho I don’t think the tea party folks are on the side of the angels when, so to speak, it comes to equal pay for women.) It’s also really wrong, bad business and – note to Sam’s Club members – not very manly, if you’ll pardon my 20th Century vocabulary.
Finally – those cheap socks aside – Wal-Mart’s discriminating against women is bad for AT LARGE and other guys who know happiness, nay survival in this economy is based on having a working wife.
(Didn’t you hear, Sam? Nowadays, working women spend their salaries on ‘luxuries’ like food, mortgages, car payments and occasionally buying martinis for aging columnists at The Palm, not just on necessities like make-up and frilly dresses manufactured by Eastern European kids.) While Wal-Mart doesn’t seem to mind hosing women, they’ll be in big trouble if our wives ‘sock it to ‘em’ and make hubbies buy our automatic weapons, power tools, gym shoes and XXL sweat pants at a competitor’s store.
So the recent Wall-Mart decision is a source for optimism, but, alas, only limited optimism.
Judging from media reports, Wall-Mart gender discrimination in pay and promotions was – maybe still is – egregious. Should the case come before a jury of the discrimination victims’ peers, the women who initially sued and and others who join in the class action may well win big bucks. But the case has already been going on for eight years and may go on for decades– unless Wall-Mart suddenly realizes that bad law suits (as opposed to ill-cut men’s suits) are bad for business.
Which brings us to the main lesson for women who are facing sex discrimination in their jobs right now: When you’re being economically violated, it’s no time to ‘lie back and think of England.’ Just because such practices are wrong, unfair and illegal, you can’t let ‘George,’ or Wal-Mart plaintiffs Betty Dukes, Michelle Braun and Dolores Hummel et al take care of it for you.
Don’t get mad, get even! Get help and a lawyer…now!