This week in class we had the opportunity to touch on the topic of disparity. Disparity occurs when a group of people is either under or over represented among the group of a particular service relative to their numbers in the general population (Rodenborg Handout). We all became aware in class that disparities can happen in many different types of programs including: the criminal justice system, housing access, healthcare, infant mortality, child protection, life expectancy, high school graduation rates, and employment.
The handout that we all received in class included alarming disparities that were occurring in Minnesota. One topic that I found particularly alarming was the disparities regarding employment. It was said that, “The Minneapolis metropolitan area stands out as having the worst relative disparity” (Austin, A. 2010). This area has a black-white unemployment ratio of 3.1 to 1, which means that African Americans are a little more than three times as likely to be unemployed as whites (Austin, A. 2010). Now some people may say that the reason for these disturbing employment statistics is the lack of education of the African American people. However, this theory is false, the ACS data showed that in Minneapolis, African Americans with the exact same educational as whites would still have a much higher unemployment rate (Austin, A. 2010). It is hard to believe that people today are trying to cover up racial disparities by making the excuse that it is due to a person’s lack of education or knowledge. There have been several studies completed that have shown that this indeed is not the case.
I came across a very interesting article that had an example of women experiencing gender disparity. This woman had been fired from Wal-Mart because she was complaining about being discriminated based on her sex. She had discovered that a male employee who had the same job title and less experience was making $10,000 more each year than she was ("Wal-mart v. women," 2011). Her boss defended this disparity by saying that the male worker had a family to support. In my opinion, her boss did not give a justifiable answer when explaining the reason for Wal-Mart's discrimination. Even if she did not have a family to support (which she did, she had a baby on the way) it was not a valid reason for a man to be making $10,000 more when he had the same position and less experience as her. Wal-Mart is a huge company with a lot of power. It would be very difficult for an individual to sue Wal-Mart and come out victorious. So, the plaintiff's in the case have brought up a plan to sue Wal-Mart as a class action. In legal terms, a class action is a civil court procedure where a party or a group of parties may sue as representatives of a larger class ("Definitions: class action," 2009). Class actions allow lawyers to justify the rights of a large group of people where no individual party has enough economic incentive to start a law suit on their own ("Definitions: class action," 2009). Proceeding with a class action would be much fairer rather than dismissing the woman's case and insisting that those other 1.5 million women fend for themselves. So far the case record consists of 120 sworn statements from women who experienced sex discrimination in pay, promotion and also in the work environment ("Wal-mart v. women," 2011). Wal-Mart has a good chance of winning this battle if the court determines that the class isn’t cohesive enough. The court may find that there may be more than one class being represented, which would result in the case being dropped and Wal-Mart would get away with discriminating against employees. This article brings up a very scary question. Are there some companies that are too big to be held accountable of discrimination and disparity?
Austin, A. (2010). Uneven pain-Unemployment by metropolitan area and race. Economic Policy Institute. Issue Brief #278, June 8, 2010. http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/ib278/
Definitions: class action. (2009). Retrieved from http://www.techlawjournal.com/glossary/legal/classaction.htm
Rodenborg, N. (2011). Disparities-A few Minnesota statistics. SWK 280 class handout.
Wal-mart v. women. (2011). The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/07/opinion/07thu1.html?_r=2&ref=discrimination
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