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Friday, June 24, 2011

Ensuring Women Have Equal Rights Under the Law

In response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment on Wednesday, according to the Huffington Post.

The proposed Equal Rights Amendment would amend the U.S. Constitution to explicitly recognize that women have equal rights under the law. According to Representative Maloney’s report, lawmakers first introduced the bill in 1923 during the women’s rights movement. Each year since that date, the bill was reintroduced, finally passing both houses and sent to the states to be ratified in 1972. The bill narrowly missed ratification in 1982, the deadline for states’ approval. Lawmakers have reintroduced it each year since.

“In the year 2011, it is truly an embarrassment for our nation that we still do not have gender equality enshrined in our Constitution,” Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) stated in a press release. “This profound omission undermines our standing as a nation committed to freedom and equality for all.” At this time, 160 members of Congress are sponsoring the bill.

Even in 2011, the struggle for equal treatment of men and women continues. Alliance for Justice’s special report notes that women’s average pay does not reach that of men. Even though Congress passed Title VII of the Civil Rights act of 1964 to outlaw employment discrimination, women still make only 77% of what men make, on average. Over her lifetime, a woman with a high school education will make $700,000 less than a man with the same education level. A woman who graduates from college will make $1.2 million less than her male counterpart, and a woman with a professional school degree will make $2 million less.

The need for the Equal Rights Amendment is clearer than ever after the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday in the Wal-Mart case. The Court blocked a sex discrimination suit brought by at least one million female Wal-Mart employees. The majority held that these women did not constitute a certifiable class and thus could not bring a class action lawsuit. As a result, these women will not be able to ban together as a group to hold the corporation liable for its discriminatory practices.

After Wal-Mart, everyday Americans will have greater difficulty holding large corporations accountable for their actions. The decision raised the threshold for forming a class, and class actions are often the best way for plaintiffs to bring large corporations to account. The Court has sent a message that it will protect big businesses from challenges to their unfair practices.

To learn more, see Alliance for Justice’s Corporate Court webpage and our special report on Wal-Mart v. Dukes.

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