Gerber: Lawsuit against Walmart could propel women’s rights in the work force

Last month we celebrated International Women's Day, a commemoration of how far women have come in our male-dominated world, and a reminder of how far we still have to go.

Here in the U.S., we celebrate our suffrage, our places as members of the work force, being able to own things without a husband, as well as our ability to exist in society as single mothers without being excommunicated. Many countries, especially the U.K., celebrate these same rights. But in many other places around the world, the fight for these same basic libertiesis still ongoing, or completely inhibited by religion and government. In America, we take for granted what other women still do not have.

Even in America, though, progress is yet to be made in some areas. Despite numerous laws and regulations against it, discrimination against women in the workplace still exists. What surprises some people is that it doesn't just take place in little backwater community businesses, but exists in some of the biggest players in our economy, as well as our government.

Exhibit A: Wal-Mart. For ten years – a whole decade of a life – there has been an ongoing investigation and legal struggle as female employees from multiple Walmart locations have been coming forth, to the public and the law, with claims that Wal-Mart has been discriminating against them on the basis of sex. They claim that they are being looked over for pay raises and promotions repeatedly in favor of male employees, and are suing their bosses. Currently, they are trying to make it a full-blown class-action lawsuit while Wal-Mart would prefer to try each case separately.

Wal-Mart's expectable response is that the corporation has had anti-discriminatory programs in place for a long time, and that it has not discriminated on the basis of sex.

This lawsuit could potentially join the ranks of other landmark gender equality legislation overhauls such as the 19th Amendment or the Equal Pay Act of 1963. If it is allowed to become a class-action lawsuit, this could be the figurative "shot heard around the world," or at least heard in the U.S. By this I mean that if this case can do it, if this contingent can pull off suing one of the largest and most powerful business empires in the nation, so can other groups such as racial minorities or people of different sexual orientations. If women can succeed in suing Wal-Mart, then other groups with grievances against large companies are empowered to do so as well.

That, my friends, is how America was meant to be: The American people empowered and enabled by unity and the desire for the equality promised to us by our Constitution, rising up against the wealth- and power-hungry corporations who are warping the fabric of our nation.

"By the people, for the people" – especially those who have the desire to be involved and to stand up for themselves.