Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill and others reacted Monday to the news that the Supreme Court had blocked a sex-discrimination lawsuit against Wal-Mart involving as many as 1.6 million women, a ruling that could have repercussions for others seeking to mount sweeping class-action lawsuits against large companies.
No Republican legislators have weighed in as yet on the ruling.
“Today’s ruling is yet another bad decision from the Supreme Court for women, and I am very disappointed,” Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in a statement Monday. “It is a blow not only to the employees who filed this lawsuit, and have been fighting for equal pay for over 10 years, but to the millions of women across the country facing workplace discrimination every day. This decision is about fairness, about the world’s largest private employer paying over a million women less than their male counterparts — and while it is certainly a setback, we will continue fighting.”
DeLauro added that she plans to “work to develop legislation that will protect the rights of class-action lawsuits like these.”
“For many individuals, this is the only meaningful access to the courts available, and we must preserve this access,” she said. “Additionally, I will keep working to make the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would ensure equal pay for equal work, the law of the land.”
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called the decision part of a pattern of denying everyday Americans access to judicial remedies.
“This is not an isolated case,” Leahy said in a statement. “It is the latest in a series of cases the Judiciary Committee has considered over the last four years. Whether it is Lilly Ledbetter suing her employer for gender discrimination, or a group of consumers suing their phone company for deceptive practices, an activist majority of the Supreme Court is making it more and more difficult for any American to have their day in court.
“Over the past two years, the American people have grown frustrated with the notion that some corporations are too big to fail,” Leahy said. “Today’s decision will undoubtedly make some wonder whether the Supreme Court has now decided that some corporations are too big to be held accountable. Discrimination in the workplace continues, and we need to make sure that all Americans are treated fairly, especially in these challenging economic times.”
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that she was “deeply disappointed” by the high court’s decision.
“Pay discrimination in the workplace is unacceptable and all too real,” Gillibrand said. “Women in this country will continue to face an uphill battle until Congress fulfills its obligation to level the playing field and close existing loopholes by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act. The time to end discrimination is now, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to end this economic injustice.”
The Alliance for Justice, a coalition of liberal advocacy groups, called Monday’s decision “the latest example of the conservative majority’s unrelenting effort to prevent everyday Americans from using the courts to find justice and battle corporate abuses.”
“This is another in a long series of cases where the conservative majority has used a radical reformulation of the law to erect a wall of privilege and protection around big business and has undermined long-held legal traditions of balance and fairness,” the group’s president, Nan Aron, said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement that the Supreme Court decision "sets back the cause of equality for women and for all Americans in the workplace and in our society" and "will make it more difficult for workers to come together to fight claims of gender discrimination.”
"Today’s ruling underscores the need to act boldly and strongly on behalf of women’s rights: we must pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work," Pelosi said. "It is a matter of fundamental fairness in our nation, and we must work – in the courts and in Congress – to correct this injustice throughout our country."
We’ll update this post as more responses come in regarding the Supreme Court ruling.