June 24, 2013
The Supreme Court’s decisions today in Vance v. Ball State University and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar show continuing indifference, and sometimes outright hostility, on the part of conservative justices to the achievement of workplace nondiscrimination. The National Organization for Women is frustrated that the Supreme Court insists on standing in the way of progress. We are encouraged, on the other hand, that the court in Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, reaffirmed the validity of diversity policies in universities' admissions -- but even in that case, some justices are more resistant than supportive of achieving diversity in higher education.
In Vance and Nassar, the court has made it easier for employers to escape liability for racial and sexual harassment in the workplace (Vance) and for claiming retaliation against employees who file discrimination complaints (Nassar). This sends altogether the wrong signal to employers. The threat of being held accountable is an essential tool to move unwilling employers to take the necessary actions to maintain a safe, collaborative, and non-discriminatory work environment. Yet the court is moving in the opposite direction.
NOW will continue to work with our allies to legislatively overrule Vance and Nassar to correct what Justice Ginsburg called “this court’s wayward interpretations of Title VII.” We will also continue to fight for policies that foster racial diversity in higher education -- without which communities of color will continue to face unjust barriers in employment and beyond.