by Dina Lassow, Senior Counsel,
National Women's Law Center
The Supreme Court handed down the last decisions of the 2009-2010 Term this week. This has been a remarkable term, with much attention being paid to cases involving campaign finance reform, protections for criminal defendants, and Second Amendment rights.
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However, there are also a number of crucial decisions from this term that demonstrate the impact of the Supreme Court on women's rights. For example, the Court's decision in Lewis v. Chicago upheld hard-fought legal protections against discrimination in the workplace. The Court's decision in Perdue v. Kenny A. preserved the possibility of enhancements to awards of attorney's fees but only in the narrowest of circumstances, thereby not making it even harder for plaintiffs to find legal representation. And an important legal tool for victims of domestic violence remained intact after the Court dismissed Robertson ex rel. Watson after oral argument.
But, in Rent-A-Center v. Jackson, the conservative majority of the Court continued a troubling line of decisions that enable companies to force employees and consumers into private arbitration. These decisions, like other recent and narrowly decided cases, restrict the ability of employees to vindicate their rights in court, including their right to be free from discrimination whether in pay or by harassment on the basis of age, sex, and race.