In an unprecedented move, a California state judge certified a class action that will allow 4,1000 women to proceed in a gender-discrimination lawsuit against the tech titan Oracle. This gender discrimination lawsuit accuses Oracle of paying men more than women despite holding the same job.
The ruling of the class action comes as a sign of victory, especially since past efforts have shown women struggling and failing to persuade courts to uphold their claims of unequal pay. Be it in retail or technology women have faced loses when it comes to bringing their gender discrimination claims in a class action lawsuit. For instance, in 2011 the US Supreme Court blocked 1.5 million women, claiming gender discrimination, from joining in a class action lawsuit against Walmart. Big tech companies like Microsoft Corp. and Twitter Inc. have also faced accusations of gender discrimination, yet the women in these cases have failed to persuade courts to allow them to join in class action lawsuits.
Thus, with the court ruling in favor of the women and not with Oracle, the second largest software company, the tide seems to be turning in the fight for equal pay. Jim Finberg, one of the lawyers representing the women, believes that “this case will help ensure that women are paid fairly at Oracle and we hope throughout the tech industry.”
A clear leverage the women will have when pursuing their class action lawsuit against Oracle is that it can be pursued under California’s Equal Pay Act. The Equal Pay Act “prohibits an employer from paying any of its employees wage rates that are less than what it pays employees of the opposite sex, or of another race, or of another ethnicity for substantially similar work, when viewed as a composite of skill, effort, and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions.”
Another advantage the women have is that the California judge also allowed a study done by David Neumark, a UC Irvine professor of economics, to proceed as evidence of Oracle’s unequal pay. Neumark’s study found that women at Oracle earned 13% less annually than their male co-workers with the same job code.
Oracle argues that the lawsuit is unfair as the company gives many workers the same job code as a tagging system and not as a indication of their skills and responsibilities. Therefore, according to Oracle each job varies drastically despite having the same job code. Thus, Oracle maintains that the women’s claims should instead be individual cases and not a class action lawsuit.
In the 25 page ruling California Superior Court Judge V. Raymond Swope rejects Oracle’s argument saying “whether the jobs at issue in this case are substantially equal or similar is a question of fact for a jury.”
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