Friday, June 11, 2010

The Future of Equality

 I am very optimistic about our country's future.  When I was a young girl, there were race riots in Kansas City after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed.  Those riots woke me up and began my focus on civil rights.  I don't remember when Rosa Parks refused to sit in the back of the bus, but her act of courage has greatly affected me. There are still many problems to overcome to have true racial equality in this country, but things are getting better. Race discrimination is more covert.  I don't hear racial epithets in common parlance as I did in my youth.

I became a lawyer in 1983, and did a few civil rights cases.  Things dramatically changed in 1991 when Congress expanded Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  Back then, I began handling the most horrendous sexual harassment cases.  Some employers were groping and fondling their subordinates in the workplace, co-workers in traditionally male jobs were sexually intimidating female co-workers, offers of promotions in exchange for sex occurred.  I tried my first sexual harassment case to a jury in 1994, where the manager had not only propositioned my client, but also grabbed between her legs.  Since then, I have tried many sexual harassment cases with the most vile and outrageous facts.  Juries responded to sexual harassment cases in a big way, and companies began to see the value in stopping sexual harassment cases in the workplace.  As my old boss used to say, people will do the right thing if you make them.  In the early 1990's, I predicted that sexual harassment cases would die out in ten years.  That didn't happen, but things are much better than they were twenty years ago.

Discrimination is far from a memory, though.  In our office, we are handling several race discrimination, national origin discrimination and sexual harassment cases.  We have a long way to go to achieve equality of opportunity for all races.  Age discrimination, in this economy, has exploded.  In fact, age discrimination is extremely rampant now.  In the last two jury trials our firm has had which were for age discrimination, I pointed out that it was acceptable in our last Presidential election to lambast McCain for his age.  It is not acceptable in this country to hurl epithets against any group except older people.  The jury responded.  The way we treat our elders is atrocious.

But, I am ever optimistic.  I see a new age, just around the corner, where it is unlawful to discriminate in employment based on sexual orientation.  Kansas City has such an ordinance, even though Missouri and the federal government do not.  Congress is killing that strange policy, "Don't ask, don't tell."  I predict we are close to legislation which has as its purpose to even the playing field regardless of sexual orientation.  I am optimistic because it was acceptable to ridicule gays and lesbians in my youth, while my children would be appalled at that behavior.

I am beginning to be optimistic in another area that I thought would never change - wage disparity.  Women earn between 76% to 80% of men.  Women are promoted less than men and traditionally female jobs are paid less than traditionally male jobs, regardless of skill level and complexity.  There is a pending class action case against Wal-Mart, with a potential class of 1.5 million people.  Maybe, just maybe, we will finally come to realize that paying women less than Caucasian men is not okay.  Women make up 52% of the population and almost half of the workforce.  This is major!  And, if women can eventually get equal pay treatment, then so can African-Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans.  Perhaps, we are on the path to true equality in treatment of all our citizens.  Perhaps, when talking about a family in poverty, Americans will not just accept that household be a "single mom" as a valid explanation.  

One day, maybe sometime soon, maybe in my lifetime, people will be "judged by the content of their character, and not be the color of their skin" nor by the age of their body, nor their gender nor their sexual orientation.  This will only happen if there are enough brave souls out their willing to buck the system by using our legal system and suing discriminatory employers.  Our judicial system is working.  It's exciting to think what the future can bring.


  1. One day, maybe sometime soon, maybe in my lifetime, people will be "judged by the content of their character, and not be the color of their skin"----

    I think they are indeed judged by the content of "their" character. Those characters in many cases, are more interested in the free coin of the realm, by way of litigation, as opposed to renumeration by way of the sweat of their brow.

    Cicling the tort law garbage scow like starving seagulls, lawyers with less than noble aspirations have fleeced the public for decades. For every John Grisham-like feel good win, their are, IMO, hundreds of "settled out of court" cases, the cost of which fall on the backs of every day lunch pail Americans (An endagered spcies at this point.)

    This commentary by the Hon. Ms. Bratcher is verbal comme il faut boiler plate cocktail claptrap designed to cover the metastization of a PC Cancer that eats away at the American fabric that used to hold this country together.

  2. Dear Bloodsucker, do some useful with your life besides taking lawyers acid that trips you out on thinking you are in tune with the universe...

  3. Counselor, based on this commentary, your skills are rote, and, as a cog in a destructive machine, I still wish you well.

    Still, a look in the mirror, with my respect, such as it is, might be in order.

  4. Whoa, Chuck and Mr. anonymous. What's going on? It's easy to criticize anonymously. Surely, you have more gumption than that. You are entitled to your opinions, but it would show some courage if you identify yourselves.

  5. Identification is conceptual, and in this case, a non sequitur.

    Were I Black, white, Native American, fat, short, tall would that relate to the comments?

    Seeking to pigeon hole someone through "identity", is a covert way of looking for a zeitgeist "weakness".

    The comment stands as it is, for now.