Friday, June 24, 2011

Two by two they enter the jungle...

You know that failed class-action suit against Walmart for sex discrimination that's been in the news lately?

Nelson Lichtenstein at the New York Times thinks we're missing an even more egregious example of corporate sex discrimination at the Big Blue Box:

There are tens of thousands of experienced Wal-Mart women who would like to be promoted to the first managerial rung, salaried assistant store manager. But Wal-Mart makes it impossible for many of them to take that post, because its ruthless management style structures the job itself as one that most women, and especially those with young children or a relative to care for, would find difficult to accept.

Why? Because, for all the change that has swept over the company, at the store level there is still a fair amount of the old communal sociability. Recognizing that workers steeped in that culture make poor candidates for assistant managers, who are the front lines in enforcing labor discipline, Wal-Mart insists that almost all workers promoted to the managerial ranks move to a new store, often hundreds of miles away.

For young men in a hurry, that’s an inconvenience; for middle-aged women caring for families, this corporate reassignment policy amounts to sex discrimination. True, Wal-Mart is hardly alone in demanding that rising managers sacrifice family life, but few companies make relocation such a fixed policy, and few have employment rolls even a third the size.

You know what? Fine. Let's ignore the fact that Mr. Lichtenstein is comparing middle-aged mothers to young, presumably childless men. Let's grant him his premise that a non-sex based policy motivated by a legitimate, non-sex based company interest is still sex discrimination if it ends up affecting more members of one sex than another.

Given that more men than women have concealed carry permits, do you think Mr. Lichtenstein will support my sex discrimination suit against my company for its no-guns policy?

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