Sen. Franken Introduces Bill to Restore Workers' Right to Challenge Workplace Discrimination in Court
Legislation Would Restore Worker's Rights Eroded by Dukes v. Wal-Mart Supreme Court Decision
Today - a year after the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that a group of workers couldn't proceed with a class-action suit before they essentially proved their full case - U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) held a press conference to introduce legislation to restore the workers' rights that were eroded by the Dukes decision.
The bill, called the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act, would allow workers to hold employers accountable in cases of workplace discrimination by ensuring that employees can once again band together to challenge discriminatory employment practices. The Senate version of the bill, introduced by Sen. Franken, has 21 cosponsors and the House version, introduced by Rep. DeLauro, has 36 cosponsors.
"American workers should have the right to hold their employers accountable when they believe they've been the victims of workplace discrimination," said Sen. Franken. "If workers can't seek justice without first proving an impossible standard, then justice is denied. This legislation would reverse the harmful effects of the Dukes decision and once again give American workers the right to band together and seek their day in court."
"One year ago this morning, the Supreme Court erected new obstacles to challenging discrimination in the workplace, upended decades of judicial precedent and made it harder to enforce our nation's civil rights laws," said Rep. DeLauro. "For the women in that case, this decision denied them their day in Court. And the impact has been felt not just by those women, but women across the country. People nationwide are finding it more difficult to challenge workplace discrimination. In only a year, this decision has been cited over 260 times by courts and used in multiple sex discrimination cases to disqualify them at the starting gate.
"The bill Senator Franken and I are introducing today uses the power and responsibility of the United States Congress to restore workers' rights and ensure everyone has an opportunity to seek justice. I hope my colleagues do the right thing by supporting this legislation."
"Women joining forces to fight discrimination should be spared barriers at the courthouse door," said Sen. Blumenthal. "This bill would overcome a misguided Supreme Court decision and remove obstacles to justice when people are denied equal opportunity in the workplace. Making rights enforceable is essential to making them real."
In 2001, Betty Dukes, a Wal-Mart employee of six years, brought a case on behalf of herself and her female co-workers, arguing that Wal-Mart's policies allowed gender bias - rather than performance and merit - to determine who would be promoted or given raises. Last June, in a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked the case from proceeding to trial as a class action, concluding that, to proceed as a group, the women first had to show "convincing proof of a companywide discriminatory pay and promotion policy." This high standard is typically reserved for a trial on the merits, not for class certification. As Justice Ginsburg explained in her dissent, the Court's decision "disqualifies the class from the starting gate."
Sen. Franken is the lead Senate sponsor of the Equal Employment Opportunity Restoration Act; Rep. DeLauro is the lead sponsor in the House of Representatives.
The bill would restore the ability of a group of plaintiffs to challenge discriminatory employment practices by clarifying that plaintiffs need not prove their case at the class certification stage. More information on the bill, as well as a full list of cosponsors, is available here.
More information on Sen. Franken's work on women's issues is available here.