Companies do the right thing, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg fights back.
Trolling for some good news this week—an exercise in futility if there ever was one—I came upon the news of a new Benetton ad campaign. Colors of Domestic Violence features models made up to appear bruised and lacerated (while still being thin and fashionable).) Boy, that didn’t help turn my frown upside down. Was Benetton really engaged in an exercise this cynical, touting their fall line under the guise of public service, while glamorizing the domestic violence victim’s injuries?
But before I could get my panties even more wadded up than they already were (damn you, adorable but control-free boy shorts!), it turned out that the ad is a fake. Benetton has categorically denied being involved in any way with its creation. No word yet on who actually made it. An ambitious art student with time to kill? Neo-fascists, hellbent on destroying Benetton’s diversity-embracing aesthetic?
Speaking of corporate responsibility regarding public welfare, The Washington Post recently highlighted companies that are (really) working to fight domestic violence. Corporations are beginning to understand that the impact of domestic violence extends far beyond the home. According to the Corporate Alliance to End Partner Violence, $727.8 million is lost each year due to domestic violence, with over 7.9 million paid workdays lost per year. This doesn’t include the increase in sick days and decreased productivity. Domestic violence can also spread to the workplace, putting other employees at risk. Despite these frightening statistics, only 4 percent of all establishments educate their employees on domestic violence and its impact on the workplace.
Some companies, though, have risen to the challenge, creating policies that protect their employes and prevent further violence. Liz Claiborne has been singled out by the CAEPV for its exemplary efforts to protect and defend victims, both within its employee population and in the world at large. After an internal survey found that almost one quarter of their employees had suffered some form of domestic violence, the company decided to take action. Liz Claiborne’s corporate policy protects victimized employees by (to name a few highlights): providing escorts to and from transportation, removing victims’ names from public directories, enforcing restraining orders on company property, allowing time off for court appearances or for safety reasons, and confidential access to corporate security resources. In addition, Liz Claiborne educates all of their employees on domestic violence, and sponsors two public awareness websites: Love is Not Abuse and Love is Respect (which is geared toward teens). If even a handful of companies followed Liz Claiborne’s model, thousands of lives could be saved. So how about it, corporate world?
In other news, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has found her voice, and she’s not shutting up. After the partial-birth abortion ban decision and this week’s discrimination ruling, Justice Ginsburg read dissents from the bench—an unusal move for her, according to the Times. “The oral dissent has not been, until now, Justice Ginsburg’s style. She has gone years without delivering one, and never before in her 15 years on the court has she delivered two in one term. In her past dissents, both oral and written, she has been reluctant to breach the court’s collegial norms.” Not anymore, it seems.
Justice Ginsburg has a lot to be angry about. A month ago, she slammed her opponents—Justices Alito, Roberts, Kennedy, Scalia, and Thomas—for upholding the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act. Their decision, she stated, reflected “ancient notions about women’s place in the family and under the Constitution — ideas that have long since been discredited.” Tuesday’s decision, which found that workers could only sue for pay discrimination within 180 days of their first received paycheck, had Justice Ginsburg speaking up again.
The case before the court concerned Lilly M. Ledbetter, an employee of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, who learned late in her 20-year career that she was earning less than any of her colleagues, including those with positions to junior to hers. Too late, said the Supreme Court. This decision ignored workplace realities regarding pay discrimination, according to Justice Ginsburg. ” Pay disparities, of the kind Ledbetter experienced,have a closer kinship to hostile work environment claims than to charges of a single episode of discrimination. Ledbetter’s claim… rested not on one particular paycheck, but on ‘the cumulative effect of individual acts.’” She then called upon the Congress to correct this decision.
As the sole remaining woman on the court, perhaps Justice Ginsburg feels an added responsibility to make her voice heard. Perhaps she sees the Supreme Court turning into a political machine used by the right. Whatever the reason, RBG, we join everyone else in saluting you, and look forward to hearing more from you in the future.