Rawlsequality


John Rawls published the book, A Theory of Justice, in 1971, his philosophy throughout the book was structured around justice and a theoretical program to institute political structures designed to preserve social justice and individual liberty.[1] Rawls’ writings are predominantly based on his reaction to the utilitarianism theory, which states “A theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number.” (Webster) Rawls’ arguments support a liberalist position; he created a thought experiment primarily referred to as ‘the original position’ or ‘the veil of ignorance.[2] In his thought experiment Rawls proposes a society in hindsight of which position in that one would be, gender. By eliminating knowledge on the position in society, we take Rawls’ theories to be a just or even utopian society.[3]

Rawls proclaims his veil of ignorance from this objective vantage point, which he calls the original position.[4] “The original position is, one might say, the appropriate initial status quo, and thus the fundamental agreements reached in it are fair. This explains the propriety of the name “justice as fairness”: it conveys the idea that the principles of justice are agreed to in an initial situation that is fair. The name does not mean that the concases which may lead us to revise our judgments. Yet for the time being we have done what we can to render coherent and to justify our convictions of social justice.” (Rawls, 13) Thus his theory concludes that individuals will choose a system of justice that effectively provides for those in the lowest positions, in fear that they might be in the most underprivileged position.[5] Rawls breaks these ideas down into two principles.      

The first principle is the principle of equal liberty, which states, “Each person has an equal right to the most extensive liberties compatible with similar liberties for all.” (Garrett, 3) Rawls second principle states, “Social and economic inequalities should be arranged so that they are both to the greatest benefit of the least advantages persons and attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of equality of opportunity.” (Garrett, 3) The first and second principles exhibit egalitarian qualities, the first principle distributes extensive liberties equally to all persons, and comparably the second principle distributes opportunities to be considered for offices and positions in an equal manner.[6] 

Rawls has created a theory given a society without any preconstructed bias. Based on his two principles, Rawls has developed an optimal world for women who have faced bias in the work place. His supposition accurately represents women in many times throughout time.

In 2001 a sexual discrimination lawsuit brought by Betty Dukes against Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. The lawsuits charged Wal-Mart with discriminating against women as far as promotions, pay and job assignments.[7] Dukes is a women working in a California store, she claims that Wal-Mart passed her over for promotions because she is a women.[8] The suit was granted a class action suit by the judge; he justifies his judgment by arguing there is just enough central control possibly to justify a corporate pattern. The second plaintiff Stephanie Odle was denied promotion due to suspension for improper handling of a refund to a customer. She feels the reason she is being denied promotions is because the suspension was a fictional accusation in order to deny her a promotion.[9] Potentially a million female workers would sue Wal-Mart for discrimination but as of 2011 the Supreme Court denied this option. On June 22, 2011 the Supreme Court ruled in Wal-Mart’s favor, this ruling threw out the biggest class- action discrimination case in history.[10] This case took over a decade to decide, starting with the US district court in San Francisco, ending in the Supreme Court decision in favor of Wal-Mart.

The Supreme Court verdict was decided by whether there were sufficient grounds to treat the women as a class, not on whether Wal-Mart enacted discriminatory polices. The justices unanimously agreed on disqualifying the class although many justices believed there was a common issue among all the plaintiffs’ complaints. The larger issue at hand for this case is trying it as a class action. Although the decisions of the District
Court and Federal Appeals court were in favor of the plaintiffs, if the Supreme Court decided to side with Dukes, it would have set a precedent for class actions against large corporations.
[11] If these cases were tried individually the plaintiffs may have won, but the larger issue would not be solved. 

Four months later in San Francisco, plaintiffs in the Betty Dukes vs. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. sex discrimination litigation case, refilled the case.[12] An estimated 90,000 plaintiffs in California were affected. “The Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the action, but only ruled that the class as certified could not proceed. It did not preclude prosecution of a class that was consistent with its newly announced guidelines and standards,” according to the revised suit.” (Greenwald, 1) Consequently, the refilled case claims female employees “who have been subjected to gender discrimination as a result of specific policies and practices in Wal-Mart’s regions located in whole or in part in California.” Therefore the case is alleging that Wal-Mart has a much lower percentage of female managers in California. The case relies on new information and hones in on the actual issue of gender discrimination rather than a precedent issue with corporations.         Rawls’ core philosophy reflects on the underlying problem in the Wal-Mart case, on violations of the glass ceiling.  An action, which states, “Glass ceilings are the artificial barriers that deny women and minorities the opportunity to advance within their careers. It is a higher management and executive level in a company to which the females, African Americans, Latinos, etc., can’t rise.” (US Legal)  Using the plaintiff’s two discriminatory examples above, Dukes and Odle, Rawl’s theories contradict the final verdict of the Supreme Court. Duke’s and Odle’s argument in both situations was that Wal-Mart denied them of promotion, due to their gender. Based on the principal of equal liberties, Dukes should have had an equal opportunity as every other person in the running for a management position, if the principal states, that each person has extensive liberties for all persons, Dukes should never have been denied the equal opportunity to be a manager. Likewise Odle should not have had the equal opportunity to be a manager, Rawls philosophy conveys egalitarian qualities, thus Odle should have been considered for offices and positions in an equal manner, as all other male employees were.  

The utilitarianism theory, the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people, contests the decision of the Supreme Court to deny the 2011 Dukes vs. Wal-Mart case a class action lawsuit.  Thousands of women struggle in the constant battle of bias towards them regarding management decisions. By denying a class action lawsuit, the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people is being repudiated. Rawls’ theories spring from the theory of utilitarianism, by denying this case a class action, the Supreme Court is denying the bases of all Rawlsian principles, thus creating an unjust society and an erroneous verdict.

The reasoning behind the decision of the Supreme Court to deny the class action case was based on the fear of setting a precedent for future cases regarding gender bias. If the Supreme Court as well as the management teams at Wal-Mart supported Rawls’ theory of the original position, there would be no case. Living in a utopian like society would negate the idea of gender bias.  If every individual made decisions for those in the lowest positions in fear that they might be in that position everyone would always make utilitarian decisions leading to a just society. The Supreme Court as well as the managers at Wal-Mart does not reflect a veil of ignorance thus creating an unfair society afraid to set precedents that would be the greatest happiness for the greatest number of people.

Based on the above information and theories, Rawls has provided us, the current class action case in California should not even be a case. As argued above, the initial case settled in 2011 did not reflect Rawls’s principles and overall philosophy, thus if the courts reflected Rawls’ philosophy’s the case would never  had to be refilled in one state and should have been settled, setting a precedent for the U.S. years ago. If the case was looked at individually now based on Rawls’s principles the case should be settled in favor of the plaintiffs, the court system should decide cases without any pre-constructed biases, and strive to create a just society.


 

[1]A Theory of Justice Study Guide – John Rawls – ENotes.com.” ENotes – Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://www.enotes.com/theory-justice&gt;.

[2]Parker, Martin. “The Dictionary of Alternatives … – Martin Parker, Valérie Fournier, Patrick Reedy.” Google Books. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://books.google.com/books?id=IKZVKMPEQCEC&gt;.

[3]“A Theory of Justice by John Rawls.” Welcome to Ohio University. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://www.ohio.edu/people/piccard/entropy/rawls.html&gt;.

[7]Malanga, Steven. “Class Action? Third aisle to the left.” Wall Street Journal [New York, N.Y] 29 June 2004: .14.

[10] Lennard, Natasha. “The Supreme Court Sides with Wal-Mart.” Salon. 20 Jan. 2011. Web. <http://www.salon.com/2011/06/20/supreme_court_sides_with_wal_mart/&gt;.

[11] Lennard, Natasha.

[12]“California-only Class Refiles Sex Discrimination Suit against Wal-Mart | Business Insurance.” Insurance News – Business Insurance News |Business Insurance. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20111027/NEWS07/111029899#.

 

 

Sources

“A Theory of Justice by John Rawls.” Welcome to Ohio University. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://www.ohio.edu/people/piccard/entropy/rawls.html&gt;.

 

“California-only Class Refiles Sex Discrimination Suit against Wal-Mart | Business Insurance.” Insurance News – Business Insurance News |Business Insurance. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://www.businessinsurance.com/article/20111027/NEWS07/111029899#&gt;.

 

“Glass Ceiling Law & Legal Definition.” Legal Definitions Legal Terms Dictionary. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://definitions.uslegal.com/g/glass-ceiling/&gt;.

 

“Utilitarianism – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary.” Dictionary and Thesaurus – Merriam-Webster Online. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/utilitarianism&gt;.

 

“Will New Statewide Class Actions Against Wal-Mart Pass The Supreme Court’s Dukes Test?” Law.com | Legal News, Technology, In-House Counsel, & Small Firms Legal Resources. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://www.law.com/jsp/cc/PubArticleCC.jsp?id=1202522078077&gt;.

 

A Theory of Justice Study Guide – John Rawls – ENotes.com.” ENotes – Literature Study Guides, Lesson Plans, and More. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://www.enotes.com/theory-justice&gt;.

 

Ceniceros, Roberto., Roberto. “Bias Suit against Wal-Mart Gets Class Action Status.” Business Insurance 38.26 (2004): 4-19. Web.

 

Lennard, Natasha. “The Supreme Court Sides with Wal-Mart.” Salon. 20 Jan. 2011. Web. <http://www.salon.com/2011/06/20/supreme_court_sides_with_wal_mart/&gt;.

 

Malanga, Steven. “Class Action? Third aisle to the left.” Wall Street Journal [New York, N.Y] 29 June 2004: .14.

 

Parker, Martin. “The Dictionary of Alternatives … – Martin Parker, Valérie Fournier, Patrick Reedy.” Google Books. Web. 06 Nov. 2011. <http://books.google.com/books?id=IKZVKMPEQCEC&gt;.

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