Monday, January 27, 2014

Greene on Grooming Codes and on Misperception in Employment Discrimination Law

Doris-Wendy-Green-newWendy Greene (Samford) has two new articles up on SSRN. The first, A Multidimensional Analysis of What Not to Wear in the Workplace: Hijabs and Natural Hair, considers grooming codes and the way they limit at least some women's participation in the workplace. Here is the abstract:

This Article challenges a relatively universal judicial and societal assumption that employers’ enactment and enforcement of grooming codes are inconsequential to women’s access to, and inclusion in, American workplaces. Specifically, this Article provides a multidimensional analysis of workplace grooming codes, shedding light on the comparable journeys of discrimination that Black and Muslim women experience when their hair and hair coverings are subject to employer regulation. Further, it illustrates that since Black and Muslim women’s identities are not mutually exclusive, Black women who are Muslim may also suffer a double form of discrimination if an employer bans both hijabs and natural hairstyles in the workplace. Thus, for the first time, this Article specifically contemplates the interconnectivity between the socio-politically constructed identity of Black and Muslim women, the socio-political and personal meaning of Black women’s natural hairstyles and Muslim women’s hijabs and resulting discrimination — under the law and in society. In so doing, this Article illuminates how these women, who are racialized as non-white due to their physical appearance and/or their religious faith and observances, share similar experiences as it relates to workplace inclusion and exclusion vis à vis what adorns their heads. This Article also demonstrates that workplace prohibitions against Black women’s natural hairstyles and Muslim women’s donning of a hijab are closely aligned forms of race and gender-based discrimination, triggering parallel actual as well as perceived stigmatization, vulnerability, and exclusion for these women of color, which civil rights constituencies have not fully exposed and addressed. 

This Article draws upon the works of notable critical race and sexuality theorists in its contention that a “multidimensional” analysis of the discrimination that women of color as a collective experience in the workplace — at the intersection of race, religion, and gender — is vital for a deeper understanding of the civil rights issues at stake, as well as for increased and sustained civil rights advocacy challenging the legality of such grooming codes. Thus, this Article calls for cross-cultural advocacy among civil and workers’ rights constituencies so that antidiscrimination law, doctrine, and advocacy can more meaningfully attend to the deprivation of equal conditions, privileges, dignity, and personhood that Black and Muslim women suffer due to the arbitrary enactment and enforcement of workplace grooming codes banning natural hairstyles and hijabs in the workplace.

The second article, Categorically Black, White, or Wrong: "Misperception Discrimination" and the State of Title VII Protection focuses on situations where employers act because of what they perceive the race, color, national origin, or religion of employees or applicants to be, but are not correct about that perception. Here is that abstract:

This Article exposes an inconspicuous, categorically wrong movement within anti-discrimination law. A band of federal courts have denied Title VII protection to individuals who allege "categorical discrimination": invidious, differential treatment on the basis of race, religion, color, national origin, or sex. Per these courts, a plaintiff who self-identifies as Christian but is misperceived as Muslim cannot assert an actionable claim under Title VII if she suffers an adverse employment action as a result of this misperception and related animus. Though Title VII expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of religion, courts have held that such a plaintiff’s claim of "misperception discrimination" is beyond Title VII’s scope. Accordingly, Title VII protection is only extended to such a plaintiff if she is "actually" Muslim or brings forth allegations of invidious, differential treatment based upon her actual Christian identity. This Article argues that these judicially created prerequisites to Title VII protection are categorically wrong. They impose a new "actuality requirement" on Title VII plaintiffs in intentional discrimination cases that engenders unfathomable results. Plaintiffs who suffer from invidious, differential treatment animated by either their self-ascribed or misperceived protected status will be denied statutory protection against discrimination if they fail to prove their actual religious, gender, ethnic, racial, or color identity upon defendant-employers’ challenge.

Though this Article primarily examines the imposition of an actuality requirement in misperception discrimination cases, this Article also demonstrates that courts have considered and imposed an actuality requirement in conventionally framed discrimination cases as well. Accordingly, this Article is the first to enumerate the development of, and myriad justifications for, the actuality requirement in cases of categorical discrimination. This Article argues that some courts’ imposition of an actuality requirement in misperception and conventionally framed discrimination cases denotes the birth of an unorthodox interpretation of Title VII’s reach and meaning nearly fifty years after its enactment — an interpretative methodology that this Article is first to describe as "anti-anticlassificationist." 

This Article also highlights a few critical, negative implications of courts’ anti-anticlassificationist interpretation of antidiscrimination law. Namely, it examines the emergence of a minimalist "actuality defense" and resulting identity adjudication, which obfuscates the chief issue in intentional discrimination cases: whether the plaintiff suffered unlawful, invidious, differential treatment. Additionally, this Article illuminates that courts’ anti-anticlassificationist interpretation and attendant actuality requirement have in fact resuscitated age-old trials of racial determination. They have thereby produced an additional destructive consequence by reifying race as a stable, biological construct. 

Consequently, this Article proposes fresh, practical, and theoretical interventions to cease the continued anti-anticlassificationist interpretation of Title VII. In doing so, this Article excavates previously unexplored Title VII statutory provisions, longstanding EEOC directives, Fifth and Third Circuit precedent, and recent Supreme Court precedent. Properly read, these sources will show that a prerequisite showing of actuality in cases of categorical discrimination under Title VII is wrong. Thus, this Article affirms that all categorical discrimination plaintiffs — that is, all individuals who have allegedly suffered discriminatory treatment on the basis of their actual or mistaken religious, gender, ethnic, racial, or color identity — are entitled to vindicate their statutory rights to be free from unlawful discrimination.

Two great reads, for sure.

MM

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Employment Discrimination, Religion, Scholarship | Permalink

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