Thursday, 23 June 2011

Too Big To Sue?

Regular readers may have noticed that recently my blog has been heavy on the film posts with very little mention of football or politics. The football side is easier to explain, there’s not a whole lot happening right now at Forest and other than the on-going corruption at FIFA, not all that much more happening elsewhere that I know enough about to comment on. The new Chelsea managerial appointment is big news, but I know next to nothing about him so I’ll leave it to others to comment. A summer without football is always a slightly dull time for me; I get tired of the endless transfer speculation as papers try to fill their sports pages.

As for politics I think I’m suffering from burnout after a year of university, a kind of frustrated cynicism with it all which makes me unwilling to keep writing and thinking about it now that I’m on holiday. However there’s a story from across the pond that I feel deserves a bit of attention just because of how important a civil rights case it is and how worrying a development it could prove to be in the battle between workers rights and big business in the United States.

On Monday the US Supreme Court dismissed, by a 5-4 majority, the plaintiff’s case in one of the biggest potential gender equality cases in American history. The case was against Walmart, one of the biggest employers in the US and could potentially have involved up to 1.6m female employees. Starting almost 10 years ago the plaintiffs hoped to bring a class-action lawsuit against the company for widespread discrimination and inequality.

The case relates to female staff being passed over for promotions, deliberately pushed into dead end sections of the company and generally receiving lower pay with fewer opportunities than male employees across the 3,400 stores nationwide.

However the Supreme Court ruled that despite their being plenty of evidence for illegal practices all over the country, there wasn’t anything sufficiently resembling evidence of a company wide policy of discrimination. They’ve said that any individual plaintiffs are still welcome to pursue legal action against their specific branches, but there will be no class-action lawsuit. So now Walmart only have to fear a few individual, ‘David V Goliath’ court cases where they’ll be under little or no pressure to settle rather than a high profile court case involving staff from 3,400 different stores.

The Court voted along ideological lines, with the 5 conservative justices voting against the action, arguing that it would not be appropriate to bring a lawsuit against the company on the whole for practices that are down to individual stores. It suggests that barring a company-wide memo telling all managers to discriminate against women, or changing the company slogan to ‘Men Are Just Better’, big companies are immune from the kind of legal action on equality issues which could really damage them and force change.

The last two 36 months have been the years of ‘Too Big To Fail’, could this be a sign of a new trend, ‘Too Big To Sue’? The precedent has now been set and any future class action lawsuits against equivalent companies are going to have to work even harder just to get the case to court. It’s another victory for big corporations over the rights of the staff they employ, it makes it clear that employees are going to struggle to band together in order to ensure their employment rights when dealing with major corporations.

Today's song is by an artist i saw supporting Lisa Mitchell in Leeds over a year ago now and i was blown away, despite the fact i'd never heard of him before he started playing.

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