Previous cases that have been settled by a ruling by the Supreme Court set the precedent for cases that are heard today. Ty Hyderally has been successfully litigating employment law in New Jersey for many years and is considered an expert in his field. Cases like Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur help to determine many of the rulings that are handed down in courtrooms today.
Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur established that regulations regarding maternity leave were too restrictive and that these rules for public school employees violated the Due Process Clause of the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. This ruling which drastically altered mandatory maternity leave guidelines was a great win on behalf of women in the workplace.
Teaching was one of the first careers in which American women dominated. Previous to this most women were housewives. The bias that believed a women’s primary role was that of a housewife dominated political offices, male administrators and was very much so of the school systems across the country. Because of this bias, married women were discouraged from entering the workforce period, but specifically from taking teaching positions. And many times being a married woman was an immediate disqualification for a teaching job. It was the general consensus that men and single women were in more need of a job than a married woman. After WWII caused so many labor shortages married women became more eligible for teaching positions. However, the prejudice against married women continued.
Prejudice began to focus more on pregnant women and in 1948 a survey conducted by the NEA showed that nearly half of the schools had no policy regarding maternity leave, and the remaining schools had a compulsory maternity leave. This mandatory leave forced teachers to take from 4 to 6 months leave before childbirth and a long period of time after the birth. These were unpaid leaves that were forced upon women teachers who were pregnant. Basically, if a woman was visibly pregnant, she would not be allowed to work, thus implying that she was not capable of meeting the demands of the job. The court ruled this as faulty reasoning.
The Supreme Court ruling was that this sort of compulsive maternity leave is unconstitutional. The Court stated it was too arbitrary, meaning that there was no reasonable explanation of the fixed dates. It also stated that there was no way to decide individual medical conditions for a whole group of people. The right of an individual to choose when to take maternity leave without such restrictive regulations was upheld.
I am Ty Hyderally; I am an employment law attorney in New Jersey
For years there remained a discrepancy over the amount of pay for men versus women. When performing the same job responsibilities and skill women were paid far less. In February 1963 Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz sent submitted a letter and a bill to the Speaker of the House of Representatives recommending legislation for “equal pay.” Initially, Congress rejected the bill but after some rewording the bill passed. The wording was changed from “equal pay to comparable work” to “equal pay for equal work.” The new wording indicates that there should be no pay discrepancy for those who perform identical job skills, regardless of whether they are male or female.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 makes it illegal for employers to pay workers varying rates for the same job performance based on the employee’s gender. The goal of this legislation is to abolish pay discrepancies between men and women for the same job positions, responsibilities and skills.
These discrepancies were deemed to be difficult on the economy. They caused many labor disputes as well was contributed to unequal methods of competition. Wages were depressed and it caused a lowering of the overall standard of living.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) (P.L. No. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56, 59) protects workers from discrimination on the basis of their gender. Employers are prohibited from paying varied wages between the genders for the same job. To the layman, it means that women and men who do exactly the same job and skill levels cannot be paid at different rates of pay. They must be paid based solely on their capabilities to do the specific job as well as carry out all the required responsibilities. An individual cannot be compensated any less in wages or other amenities simply because they are female or male; rather it states equal pay for equal work.
There are many types of workplace discrimination. However, unless the discrimination is against a protected category discrimination itself is not illegal. An employer firing a person does not constitute a form of actionable discrimination unless it is based on a “protected category.” These specific categories are defined in discrimination laws which are in place to protect the employee from such actions. If the specific category is not written out in the statutes the employee is not protected by any type of discrimination law. Basically there are two forms of discrimination as defined by law, disparate treatment or disparate impact. Disparate treatment is simply treating an individual differently based on a condition such as gender or race. Disparate impact is where a policy excludes an individual from positions or promotions although that was not the original intent of the policy; simply the result of the policy.
Racial discrimination is probably one of the most common among law suits. Regulations by Federal and State laws make it illegal to discriminate according to the “terms or conditions of employment” on the basis of an individual’s skin color or race. Racial discrimination can also mean associations with a particular race are prohibited. For example, if an employer fired a white employee simply because he had black friends or was dating a woman of another race it is classified as workplace discrimination.
The ADA, Americans with Disabilities Act, is a Federal law that states the illegality of employers discriminating against an individual on the basis of a disability. An individual who is qualified and capable of completing a job cannot be denied position, promotion, compensation or training based on a disability. The stipulation here is that the individual must be physically able to complete the job or else there is no basis of discrimination which implies that the individual was denied a basic right of employment because of the disability.
Age discrimination in the workplace is a common practice. It has more loopholes that some of the other types of discriminations. Basically anyone over 40 is protected by Federal laws pertaining to age discrimination. It is illegal to simply replace an older person with a younger worker. However, it is not illegal to offer “golden handshakes” to older employees who will agree to early retirements.
Gender discrimination is rampant in the workplace as well. It is illegal to treat employees differently simply because of their gender. It goes beyond just whether or not a person is hired based on gender. Sex discrimination is pertaining to any aspect of employment such as: pay scale, title, position, vacations or hours. The Equal Pay Act states that an employer cannot pay differing wages for similar positions based on gender.
There are many forms of bias and prejudice in the workplace. Discrimination law helps to protect individuals from improper treatment and unjust discrimination.
Many questions come to mind as a class action suit continues against corporate giant WalMart. The sexual discrimination case began over a decade ago and is presently being heard by the Supreme Court. The retailer is being accused of systematically discriminating against possibly millions of employees. The chief complaint lies in regard to female employee’s terms of promotions and pay rates.
The primary issue to be decided before the suit can proceed is if the plaintiffs have a valid class action suit or must each file their cases separately. Legal representatives for Walmart claim the cases are too diverse to be tried together in a solitary class action case. However, the plaintiffs argue that single cases would be too expensive and difficult. A trial court, as well as the U. S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco has given the go ahead with the case.
The impact of this case may be enormous. It may literally redefine discrimination law in the U. S. Other corporate giants such as General Electric and Microsoft are watching the case closely as they may potentially be directly affected.
The case began in 2000 when Betty dukes claimed she had been denied proper training for possible promotions. Her legal representative, Brad Seligman, states that Walmart has methodically discriminated against female employees. Women are drastically underrepresented in management positions throughout the company. The case also sites that female employees are paid less than their male colleagues for fulfilling the same job requirements and positions.
There is no doubt that the result of this case will have resounding repercussions no matter which way it is decided. A win for Duke will no doubt incite the rise of many other sexual discrimination law suits. Should it be decided in her favor it will also spur other types of discrimination suits for other minorities and for those with disabilities. However, should Walmart win the case it will make it much more difficult for legitimate sexual discrimination suits to argue that various positions in different stores can have enough in common to be considered a class.
Walmart’s enormous size can actually work against them in this particular suit if the class action should proceed. Statistics is one of the most useful means to proving a discrimination suit in the workplace. This is usually only effective if the company is large enough to have the numbers to do a valid statistical analysis.
No matter which side wins discrimination law could potentially be altered. Corporate America is keeping their eyes on the outcome as are the vast minorities.