By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
Three women have filed a class action suit against UPS for sex discrimination. They allege that the company assigns women to suboptimal jobs with little chance for advancement. Women’s rights have seen triumphs and setbacks.
A class action lawsuit has been filed by three women who work at a UPS hub in California, claiming the shipping company engages in systemic sex discrimination. They say that UPS places women in dead-end jobs, leading to lower pay and less opportunity for advancement than their male counterparts. The discrimination is worse for older women, who are scrutinized more than younger men, according to the complaint.
Legally guaranteed equal rights for women often comes through legislation, though not without setbacks. In his video series Law School for Everyone: Constitutional Law, Professor Eric Berger, Professor of Law and the Associate Dean for Faculty at the University of Nebraska College of Law, detailed some landmark incidents.
Beyond Hoyt v. Florida
In 1920, Congress ratified the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
“The franchise was a significant victory for the women’s rights movement, but it did not by any means provide women with overnight genuine equality, either in U.S. culture or in the courts,” Professor Berger said. “As late as 1961, in Hoyt v. Florida, the court upheld a Florida law that included women on jury lists only if they registered a desire to be included with the clerk of the court.
“Over 40 years after women obtained the right to vote, the court explained that ‘woman is still regarded as the center of home and family life.'”
Technically, the ruling didn’t violate the Nineteenth Amendment because, although both voting and jury duty are considered civic duties, they are two separate acts.
So Close, Yet So Far
Again, the Nineteenth Amendment states that no United States citizen’s right to vote shall be infringed upon based on sex, but voting is all that it covers. Likewise, in 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed, prohibiting “sex-based wage discrimination” between men and women who perform the same job in “the same institution.” With pay discrimination and voting rights discrimination covered, what about other rights?
“In the early 1970s, both Houses of Congress proposed an equal rights amendment that would have added explicit protection against sex discrimination,” Professor Berger said. “The language read, ‘Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.'”
According to Professor Berger, Article V of the Constitution stipulates that a proposed constitutional amendment must be ratified by three-quarters of the states to take legal effect. Within a few months of the proposal, in 1972, roughly half the required states had ratified it. Then things slowed and Congress extended the deadline to the end of June 1982. By that time, 35 of 38 states had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment.
“Women have made great strides, but they still lag behind men in many important respects, such as corporate leadership positions, political positions, and pay,” he said. “And many commentator’s lament the country’s ultimate failure to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment as both a cause and symbol of women’s inability to win true equality in our society.”
However, Professor Berger noted, in spite of the slow pace of changing laws affecting women’s rights, the movement has continued to advance.