Yesterday the Supreme Court dismissed a lawsuit by 1.5 million employees, who are women, who claimed sexual discrimination in the way a company, Walmart, carried out promotions. The court cited a companywide policy opposing discrimination, and the fact that promotions were carried out at store level, by 3,400 individual managers. For this reason, the court found, the group, which amounted to 75% of the company workforce, could not sue as one.
“In a company of Walmart’s size and geographical scope, it is quite unbelievable that all managers would exercise their discretion in a common way without some common direction,” Justice Antonin Scalia wrote.
The New York Times, in its front-page story this morning, said the major impact will be to discourage lawyers from filing huge class-action suits. While The Times did note the ruling was pro-business, it in no way signaled the ruling was pro-Walmart. While The Times did note the ruling made large discrimination suits more difficult, it in no way signaled the ruling was anti-women.
Yet when the news broke yesterday and flashed across Twitter, the immediate rush to communicate the news was limited it to, essentially: "The Supreme Court just ruled for Walmart and against women, which is awful." That's not really the story. The court did not even consider the merits of the case, whether Walmart disciminates against women, just its size.
The story might be difficult to limit to 140 characters. Breaking news is often communicated in a dumbed-down (and sometimes just dumb) way. But this morning, when reasoned analysis of the ruling is being published, Twitter has moved on. Few tweets are saying the ruling hurts large class-action suits, or the reasoning behind the ruling. The timeline pictured here shows tweets about the case, and the spike yesterday as the news broke.
I am no fan of Walmart, and I was raised by a single, working mom who faced sexism in the workplace. This post has nothing to do with my politics.
And I love that Twitter is such an effective headline service. It gets news out quickly, informs people faster, alerts the public to important events. But the short attention span of the American public has been limited even more by Twitter. And it troubles me that so few circle back to get beyond the initial headline, which often misses the point.