Congress has the chance to restore workers’ rights and eliminate newly created barriers to justice for victims of discrimination by passing the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act, which was introduced today by Senator Al Franken (D Minn.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D Conn.). The bill would undo the damage of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, which denied more than one million female Wal-Mart employees the opportunity to challenge the company’s unfair pay and promotion practices and made it harder for workers to combat discrimination.
“The Supreme Court’s decision in Wal-Mart v. Dukes was a devastating blow to the right of all workers to combat systemic discrimination in the workplace,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “The ruling was especially punishing for women, who suffer pervasive sex discrimination at a time when their wages are critical to the economic security of their families. That is why we commend Senator Franken and Representative DeLauro for introducing the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act of 2012. It is a much-needed bill that would restore critical civil rights protections for workers and give them back the tools they need to have a fighting chance against unlawful and systemic discrimination.”
According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), discrimination claims have risen by 24 percent over the last decade. During that same time period, charges of sex discrimination have jumped by 14 percent and pregnancy discrimination charges rose by 35 percent. In 2011 alone, the EEOC received an unprecedented number of charges of discrimination nearly 100,000.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act would eliminate barriers to justice for victims of discrimination that were created through the Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision. The bill would do so by restoring workers’ rights under fundamental civil rights laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act — so that:
- Workers are once again able to band together to challenge discrimination, regardless of the size of their group or employer;
- Workers can join together to challenge subjective employment decisions that are left to managers’ discretion, which was made more challenging by the Wal-Mart case;
- Employers cannot hide behind written nondiscrimination policies if they are not consistently and effectively implemented; and
- Courts have discretion to determine the appropriate monetary relief due to victims of discrimination.
“We cannot and should not be making it harder to root out discrimination in this country, but that’s exactly what the Wal-Mart decision did and that’s exactly what Congress will endorse if lawmakers do not pass the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act,” Ness continued. “Too many workers still suffer from discrimination in this country, and they cannot effectively stand up for their rights against powerful employers if they are not able to join together. Justice should not be limited to a few. Congress must uphold the nation’s legacy of fairness and equal opportunity by passing this modest, targeted bill.”
Betty Dukes, a female greeter at a California Wal-Mart store and lead plaintiff in the Wal-Mart v. Dukes case, rallied on the steps of the Supreme Court this morning to mark the one-year anniversary of the decision. She called attention to the continued need for fair pay and promotions for working women and to express her support for the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act. She was joined by a broad coalition of women’s, worker and civil rights groups that included the National Partnership.
For more information on the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act, including the bill’s text and background information on Wal-Mart v. Dukes, visit www.NationalPartnership.org/EEORA.