You Haven't Come as Far as You Think, Baby

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Regardless of how nice the pensions are, working for the government has just become considerably less attractive for nearly half of the American labor force following the Supreme Court's Tuesday ruling that states aren't required to pay their female and male employees equally for equal work. It's the second time in two weeks that the Court has favored state governments over individual rights, and women's-rights advocates aren't pleased. At issue were two cases in which female professors at state universities sued for pay on par with similarly qualified male profs. The Justices sent the case back to lower courts with instructions to follow the legal model laid out by the Court in an age-discrimination case last week. There the Court ruled that states are immune to age-discrimination claims because they are protected by the 11th Amendment, which prohibits them from standing trial in federal court.

So, let's get this straight: The majority opinion in the age-bias case said that state hiring practices shouldn't held to the same high standards in age-discrimination cases as they would be in gender- or race-discrimination cases. Now the Court says there are no federal protections against states' gender biases, either. "This is directly in line with the legacy of the Rehnquist Court, which is a return to an emphasis on states' rights," says TIME legal correspondent Alain Sanders. "The problem with that is when balancing the rights of citizens against the rights of states, this court tends to minimize the rights of citizens and maximize the rights of states." One legal point some say the Court erred on is its emphasis of the 11th Amendment over the 14th Amendment, which requires states to protect and treat all individuals equally. Under this argument, the 14th Amendment trumps the 11th since it was drafted more than 70 years later.

In any case, the fact is that the public sector has had a hard time recruiting young talent in recent years due to the sustained boom in private industry. The last thing it needs right now is to alienate half of the pool of potential employees, because there are plenty of tech firms out there that don't seem to care about the gender of who's making them money.