Gender Issues and the U.S. Constitutional Law: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al.

Introduction

The 21st century has witnessed vast alterations in a range of domains including economic, financial, and legal ones due to the shift in priorities and the extent to which information management has affected the world. Changes to economic relationships between physical persons and entities have had a tangible impact on the communication between companies and their employees. Specifically, opportunities for building an elaborate system of regulations for securing the rights and safety of employees have appeared along with substantial challenges in maintaining the workplace HR processes constitutional.

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Thus, revisiting the definition of the class action suit by considering the instances of the violations of certain groups’ rights is essential from the perspective of the Constitutional Law. Dismissing the claim of the plaintiff and ruling in favor of Wal-Mart, Inc., the Supreme Court enforced the definition of a group that a class action suit is supposed to represent as a homogenous concept.

Due to the fact that the group in question was rather diverse, the court ruled that it could not qualify for being represented as a part of a class action suit (CAS). Despite the fact that the results of the case did not support the plaintiff, the court’s ruling can still be used for the benefit of the further management of similar issues since it has contributed to the definition of a group that a CAS can represent.

Nonetheless, the court decision can be seen as opening a possibility of employees being discriminated against in the workplace setting of big corporations. Thus, further changes will have to be made to the current situation to prevent the instances of workplace harassment and discrimination from occurring.

The problem of workplace discrimination based on gender has not been the subject of court cases up until the 20th century, when the feminist movement started gaining influence and shaping the minds of American citizens. With the principles of equality and equal rights being the foundation of the American Constitution, the importance of recognizing the needs of women in the workplace and treating them equally to men emerged in the 20th century (Brown 132). The cases such as Goesaert v. Cleary made it possible to acknowledge that women should have the same set of rights and responsibilities as men did (McCammon and Brockman 4).

For instance, the Geduldig v. Aiello case helped women to obtain the right to receive insurance benefits while being on their maternity leave due to pregnancy (McCammon and Brockman 2). The specified cases have served a crucial purpose of acquainting general audiences with the concept of equal rights and opportunities in the workplace for both men and women. Furthermore, the cases mentioned above have contributed to the creation of the concept of equity in the workplace as the measure against discrimination. Specifically, it became possible for women to obtain a larger number of opportunities so that their chances to succeed could be equal to those of men.

The described change aligns with the principles of the current Constitutional Law, which guarantees equal rights and opportunities for every U.S. citizen in every possible domain, employment and career opportunities being one of them. Therefore, the alterations observed in the area of gender equality as an important part of implementing the principles of the Constitutional Law are to be deemed as critical. The changes that the recent litigations have had on the American economic, social, and legal landscape have been massive when considering the progress made in the realm of gender issues.

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Specifically, one should mention the XIV Amendment, which guarantees that each American citizen should be entitled to the same set of rights and freedoms, the right not to be discriminated against on the basis of one’s gender being the key one (U.S. Constitution. Art./Amend. XIV). Specifically, the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment states that all Americans are eligible for the same number of rights and freedoms, which includes all genders (U.S. Constitution. Art./Amend. XIV, Sec. 1).

According to the specified regulation, the instances of discrimination can be applied to any scenarios in which a specific person or a group of people are denied their rights based on their belonging to a specific class (U.S. Constitution. Art./Amend. XIV, Sec. 1). To be more precise, the Equal Rights Clause of the 14th Amendment details that “Various jurisdictions have enacted statutes to prevent discrimination based on a person’s race, sex, religion, age, previous condition of servitude, physical limitation, national origin, and in some instances sexual orientation” (U.S. Constitution. Art./Amend. XIV, Sec. 1).

The statement provided above implies that women should be provided with the same rights as men in all areas including business settings. The case under analysis, however, fails to deliver the specified outcome, therefore, creating a significant conflict.

In regard to the case under analysis, one should also mention the Equal Rights Amendment as the argument in favor of the plaintiff and the fact that the case should have been interpreted as the situation involving the infringement of women’s rights. Although the Equal Rights Amendment has not become a part of the U.S. Constitution yet, it has been suggested as an important addition to the existing Constitutional Law for decades with the rationale that the needs of vulnerable groups, particularly, women, have to be represented more effectively in all domains, including social and business environments (Maloney 1).

The Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al., in turn, has contributed to the aggravation of the conflict by creating the scenario in which the plaintiff was denied the opportunity to be granted monetary relief for the discrimination that the plaintiff experienced.

Similarly, improvements to the existing legal standards should also be seen as vital to the further management of similar issues. As the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. has shown, the definition of a CAS requires shaping so that it could be used to represent the needs and interests of a particular vulnerable group fully. The criteria based on which a particular group can be formed to be represented in court have been advanced to include a vast range of participants, thus creating additional opportunities for securing the rights of women (Brown 134). Unfortunately, the observed change does not guarantee complete absence of biases taken in the process of a court trial, yet it creates an extra layer of security for marginalized groups that may be affected by the case outcomes.

The history of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. is quite long and complicated. The case was filed in 2001 as the complaint against Walmart, Inc, for systematic infringement upon the rights of its female workers. The case was filed as a class action suit since the issue seemed to concern the company’s policies and affect all of its female staff members. The case was filed at the U. S. District Court for the Northern District of California, where it was decided that women at Walmart had been subjected to unfair and discriminatory treatment (American Association of University Women).

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On December, 6, 2001, the case was submitted for the review to the U.S. Supreme Court to consider whether the situation that around 1.5 million female employees at Walmart were facing was discriminatory (American Association of University Women). In addition to the evidence analyzed in the course of the trial, the amicus brief provided by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) was incorporated into the case (American Association of University Women).

During its development, the case has been tried in several courts. Specifically, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. has been reviewed in the District Court, where it was decided that the case met the criteria set by the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(a) for the specified type of legal complaints (Legal Information Institute). After the Ninth Circuit confirmed that the case was eligible for being considered in court, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. The Supreme Court, to which the case was passed, decided that it did not correspond to the criteria for class action suits set in the existing legal standards, which was why it was eventually dismissed (Legal Information Institute).

Discussion

When considering the particular case mentioned above as the most recent example of anti-discrimination laws and the Constitutional Law, in general, being enforced in the economic setting, the division occurring among judges is of particular interest. According to the report on the subject matter, the process of passing the judgment, as well as the general analysis that preceded it, was rather heated and involved numerous arguments (Costello 4).

Costello states that the difference in the opinions of the jurors nearly caused a division, affecting the case greatly and leading to multiple complications. Specifically, the author recalls that “In the months following the Court’s controversial decision, lawyers and academics have been scrambling to assess the impact of Dukes on procedural class action and substantive discrimination law” (Costello 5).

Therefore, one must admit that the decision passed by the Supreme Court was rather controversial. When viewed from the principles of the Constitutional Law, it represented an instance of the breach of plaintiffs’ legal rights. Indeed, according to the standards of democracy and equality outlined in the Constitutional Law of the United States, each person is entitled to the same constitutional rights and freedoms, including the one that implies being treated fairly and with due dignity (Ozturk and Tatli 784).

The specified issue concerns the workplace environment in particular as the setting in which an employee is highly dependent on the employer, with the latter potentially being capable of taking advantage of the latter unless proper regulations are enforced. The decision of the Supreme Court, however procedurally justified it was, set the discussion regarding equality in the workplace back extensively.

In order to evaluate the impact that the case in question has had on the movement for women’s rights, one should also consider the theoretical perspective of the Feminist Legal Theory. Created by Ann Scales in the 1970ies and shaped by Martha Fineman in 1984, the specified framework involves considering the implications of specific cases on women (Fineman et al. 16). By introducing a gender perspective into the contemporary legal framework, the specified theory offers a method of exploring the implications of the legal case in question.

For example, by viewing the case of The Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al., from the standpoint of the Feminist Legal Theory, one will realize that the outcomes of the case have led to the mismanagement of the needs of women and the failure to address the collective concern for the current situation of women’s rights in large corporations.

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The issue of gender biases and especially discrimination in the workplace, therefore, has undergone significant scrutiny, with a range of cases being considered in the course of the American history. Overall, the recent changes to the idea of workplace equality and the prevention of harassment or discrimination based on gender in the organizational setting have been quite positive in the management of the problem of gender discrimination in the workplace.

Viewing the problem from the perspective of the Feminist Legal Theory and the XIV Amendment has made it possible to accept the idea of equality as the basis for building relationships in the corporate environment. Moreover, by bringing the problems that marginalized groups face in the corporate environment into the public light, the cases in question have contributed to building awareness and encouraging people to take actions in order to correct the observed injustice.

The Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. case as the most infamous scenario involving the management of women’s rights in the corporate setting and discrimination in the corporate setting is an admittedly outrageous one. Due to the biased perspective of the jury, the group of women that were striving to seek justice was denied their rights on the premise of them not qualifying for a CAS.

However, further cases involving the infringement upon women’s rights in the workplace have allowed viewing the problem as an issue that exists and has to be resolved. As a result, the cases such as the gender discrimination lawsuit against Nike have become an important landmark in managing the needs of women and gender minorities in the corporate setting (Blumberg par. 3). Therefore, one must admit that the problem of gender discrimination as a Constitutional issue has undergone vast changes.

Outcomes

At first glance, the case with its notorious ruling has had a rather detrimental effect on the discussion of legal rights in the economic and corporate setting, as well as the dialogue regarding the gender-related discrimination.

However, due to the publicity that the case received, as well as the change in the public perception of the issue, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. has produced a rather tangible impact on the process of fighting for equality in the modern economic context. Since the court decision was based on a technicality in the Constitutional Law standards rather than on its larger concept of justice and basic human rights, a broader conversation could be started. Thus, one might claim that the controversial decision has produced a slight positive effect on the evolution of the movement for the rights of vulnerable populations.

Overall, significant changes have been taking place in the corporate environment of American organizations in regard to gender-related discrimination. Although the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. cannot be seen as the event that pioneered improvements to the corporate setting, it should be regarded as the point at which the legitimacy of gender-specific corporate regulations was finally questioned.

Therefore, the current situation that can be characterized as moderately positive for a wide range of gender groups in the U.S. economic setting owes a certain amount of its success to the problematic decision made by the Supreme Court when considering the 2011 case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. The implications of the case include the reconsideration of the principles based on which employees are treated in the organizational environment and which role gender plays in it.

Arguably, the social response that the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. caused allowed changing the status quo for women as a vulnerable group, as seen in some of the more recent cases addressing the subject matter (Wilson et al. 22).

Thus, the outcomes of the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. case are quite vast and worthy considering the response that they produced. The case provided clear evidence proving that the rights of women as a marginalized group in the business setting despite the principles that the XIV Amendment sets for the management of similar situations. Moreover, the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. case indicated that there was the need to improve the existing framework for defending the rights of women in the workplace setting, especially in the realm of large corporations such as Wal-Mart, Inc.

Conclusion

Despite the fact that the case of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. has been ruled in favor of the defendant, it has contributed to improving the existing regulations and safeguarding the rights and needs of employees within large corporations. Specifically, the case has shaped the definition of a group within the corporate context, thus making it possible to guarantee that the interests of every single member within a diverse workplace setting are taken into account. The problem of workplace discrimination and especially gender biases has been in existence for decades, and despite the progress that has been made so far, large companies still take advantage of their workers. The specified problem has to be managed on a statewide level to prevent similar instances from taking place in the future.

The case in question proves that the U.S. Constitutional Law incorporates complex issues that may be seen as debatable when viewed through the prism of different standpoints and philosophies. Furthermore, the Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. case serves as the evidence of the efficacy of the existing Constitutional Law framework, which helps not only to represent the needs of the specific groups but also to improve the process of considering similar cases.

By directing the case to continue in a different form, the Supreme Court made it possible to ensure that the problem of workplace discrimination will be managed successfully in the future. Therefore, while the outcomes of the case under analysis cannot be regarded as fully satisfactory, it has built the platform for further improvements in regard to women’s rights in the workplace and the prevention of discrimination toward female employees.

Works Cited

American Association of University Women. “Court Case: Wal-Mart Stores Inc. v. Dukes.” AAUW.org, n.d. Web.

Blumberg, Peter. “Nike Women Clear First Hurdle in Lawsuit Over Gender Pay Gap.Bloomberg. 2019. Web.

Brown, Rachel. “Pidgeon v. Turner: Insidious Inertia-Texas’ Refusal to Extend Spousal Benefits to Same-Sex Couples.” Tul. JL & Sexuality, vol. 27, no. 1, 2018, pp. 133-135.

Costello, Matthew. No Glue Stocked on Aisle 23: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes Deals a Death Blow to Title VII Class Actions. Loyola University Commons, 2014.

Fineman, Martha Albertson, et al. Feminist and Queer Legal Theory: Intimate Encounters, Uncomfortable Conversations. 2nd Ed. Routledge, 2016.

Legal Information Institute. “Supreme Court of the United States: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al.Law.Cornell.edu, n.d. Web.

Maloney, Carolyn B. “Q&A on the Equal Rights Amendment.Maloney.House.gov, n.d. Web.

McCammon, Holly J., and Amanda J. Brockman. “Feminist Institutional Activists: Venue Shifting, Strategic Adaptation, and Winning the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.” Sociological Forum, vol. 1, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-12.

Ozturk, Mustafa Bilgehan, and Ahu Tatli. “Gender Identity Inclusion in the Workplace: Broadening Diversity Management Research and Practice Through the Case of Transgender Employees in the UK.” The International Journal of Human Resource Management, vol. 27, no. 8, 2016, pp. 781-802.

Wilson, James Q., et al. American Government: Institutions and Policies. Essentials ed., Cengage Learning, 2016.

U.S. Constitution. Art./Amend. XIV. 1868.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, June 12). Gender Issues and the U.S. Constitutional Law: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/gender-issues-and-the-u-s-constitutional-law-wal-mart-stores-inc-v-dukes-et-al/

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"Gender Issues and the U.S. Constitutional Law: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al." StudyCorgi, 12 June 2021, studycorgi.com/gender-issues-and-the-u-s-constitutional-law-wal-mart-stores-inc-v-dukes-et-al/.

1. StudyCorgi. "Gender Issues and the U.S. Constitutional Law: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al." June 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/gender-issues-and-the-u-s-constitutional-law-wal-mart-stores-inc-v-dukes-et-al/.


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StudyCorgi. "Gender Issues and the U.S. Constitutional Law: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al." June 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/gender-issues-and-the-u-s-constitutional-law-wal-mart-stores-inc-v-dukes-et-al/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "Gender Issues and the U.S. Constitutional Law: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes et al." June 12, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/gender-issues-and-the-u-s-constitutional-law-wal-mart-stores-inc-v-dukes-et-al/.

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