Thursday, February 29, 2024

Study Shows that Equal Pay Act and Civil Rights Act Were More Successful than Previously Believed in Addressing the Gender Gap in Pay

Martha J. Bailey, Thomas Helgerman & Bryan Stuart, How the 1963 Equal Pay Act and 1964 Civil Rights Act Shaped the Gender Gap in Pay, IZA Discussion Paper No. 16700


In the 1960s, two landmark statutes—the Equal Pay and Civil Rights Acts—targeted the long-standing practice of employment discrimination against U.S. women. For the next 15 years, the gender gap in median earnings among full-time, full-year workers changed little, leading many scholars to conclude the legislation was ineffectual. This paper revisits this conclusion using two research designs, which leverage (1) cross-state variation in pre-existing state equal pay laws and (2) variation in the 1960 gender gap across occupation-industry-state-group cells to capture differences in the legislation's incidence. Both designs suggest that federal anti-discrimination legislation led to striking gains in women's relative wages, which were concentrated among below-median wage earners. These wage gains offset pre-existing labor-market forces which worked to depress women's relative pay growth, resulting in the apparent stability of the gender gap at the median and mean in the 1960s and 1970s. The data show little evidence of short-term changes in women's employment but suggest that firms reduced their hiring and promotion of women in the medium to long term. The historical record points to the key role of the Equal Pay Act in driving these changes. 

 Quote: "Yet a closer examination of long-term trends for a broader set of wage earners hints that federal anti-discrimination legislation mattered more than previously believed.

February 29, 2024 in Equal Employment, Legislation, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Reform of Sexual Harassment Laws in Australia

Belinda Smith, Respect@Work Amendments: A Positive Reframing of Australia’s Sexual Harassment Laws,  
(2023) 36 Australian Journal of Labour Law 145

Australian law on sexual harassment has seen many changes in the past few years. This article outlines and analyses these changes in light of the findings of the inquiry that recommended them, Respect@Work: National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces. The Report found that sexual harassment was pervasive, harmful and clearly not being addressed by the existing laws, which relied almost entirely on individual victims to lodge formal complaints and bear the burden of driving change. The legislative amendments serve to harmonise and improve individual protections across the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth), Fair Work Act 2009 (Cth) and work health and safety laws. The most significant change, though, is the introduction of a new duty on persons conducting a business or undertaking to take positive steps to prevent harassment and sex discrimination. While its deficiencies are acknowledged, this duty could play an important functional and symbolic role in shifting regulatory attention from victims to their employers and other duty holders, and more importantly, from redressing harm after the fact to preventing it in the first place.

February 29, 2024 in Equal Employment, International, Legislation, Work/life | Permalink | Comments (0)

Judge Enjoins Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Finding it Violates Constitution's Quorum Clause

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act Blocked in Texas as Unconstitutional

A federal judge in Texas this week dealt a blow to a landmark piece of legislation protecting pregnant workers, ruling that there was no quorum in the U.S. House when the law passed, making it unenforceable.

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, was part of a $1.7 trillion spending package that Congress passed in late 2022. U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), first introduced the bill in 2012, and worked for more than a decade to get it passed.

“Texas: Won’t let you have an abortion but also won’t do anything to help you have a safe and healthy pregnancy,” Casey said in a statement to the Capital-Star on Wednesday. “This is Republican governance at its finest and downright insulting to women in Texas and beyond who want and need to continue working safely through pregnancy.”

Last February, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration arguing that since members of Congress were allowed to vote by proxy for the spending package, there were not enough members physically present to form the quorum required in the Constitution. 

Then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi regularly allowed House members to vote by proxy during the COVID-19 pandemic.


US Judge in Texas Rules Congressional Passage of 2022 Spending Bill Unconstitutional, Reuters

A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday ruled that a $1.7 trillion government funding bill was unconstitutionally passed in 2022 through a pandemic-era rule that allowed lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives to vote by proxy rather than in person.
U.S. District Judge James Wesley Hendrix in Lubbock reached that conclusion as he granted Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's request to block a provision of that bill that gave pregnant workers stronger legal protections.
The judge, an appointee of Republican former President Donald Trump, called the scope of his ruling "limited," and said it did not block all of the spending law. Texas had only sought to block two provisions ultimately.
Hendrix blocked one provision, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, from being enforced against the state after finding the bill was wrongly passed. That law requires employers to provide pregnant workers with reasonable accommodations.

February 29, 2024 in Constitutional, Family, Legislation, Pregnancy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, February 26, 2024

Colleen Campbell on "Intersectionality Matters in Food and Drug Law"

Colleen Campbell has published Intersectionality Matters in Food and Drug Law in volume 95 of the University of Colorado Law Review.  The abstract provides: 

Feminist scholars critique food and drug law as a site of gender bias and regulatory neglect. The historical exclusion of women from clinical trials by the FDA prioritized male bodies as the object of clinical research and therapies. Likewise, the FDA’s prior restriction on access to contraceptive birth control illustrates how patriarchal and paternalistic attitudes within the Agency can harm women’s reproductive health. However, there is little analysis of how race and gender intersect in this domain.

This Article uses the regulation of skin-lightening cosmetics products to illustrate why and how intersectionality matters in food and drug law. While the inadequate regulation of cosmetics has a disparate impact on women’s health, it is women of color who predominantly use skin-lightening products, similar to some hair care products that are disproportionately marketed to women of color. Additionally, skin-lightening products are often toxic because they contain mercury and other harmful substances. The skin-lightening industry has also historically (and contemporarily) targeted women of color with racist and colorist advertising messages that idealize light skin as the pinnacle of beauty.

The inadequate regulation of cosmetics illustrates why intersectional analysis is essential in food and drug law. An intersectional lens uncovers the various underlying forces that produce a disparate health impact for women of color: systemic racism in health, racially targeted marketing, and hegemonic beauty norms shaped by race and skin color constructs. The increased toxicity of these products also overexposes women of color to more serious health risks from cosmetics. While cosmetics reform has ushered in new regulations that improve the Agency’s authority to regulate cosmetics, the health risks posed to women of color from toxic personal care products in general deserves urgent attention in food and drug discourses. Intersectional analysis uncovers the contours of this urgency and offers an important response to the de-prioritization of women of color within food and drug law discourses.

February 26, 2024 in Healthcare, Race, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court Amicus Brief Argues Brenda Andrew's Capital Murder Case Used Prejudicial "Sexualized Evidence"

A coalition of amici, including a former federal judge, Fair and Just Prosecution, 17 law professors, and 4 domestic violence researchers, have filed an amicus brief in support of Brenda Andrew's petition for cert. in her capital murder case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief challenges the weaponizing of gender bias as a jury persuasion tool: "The noxious effects of gender bias pack a powerful punch in the courtroom—and prosecutors know it. Some prosecutors, including those that tried Ms. Andrew, deliberately invoke gender bias, strategically emphasizing a woman’s departure from feminine ideals “to turn jurors against female defendants,” rather than meeting their burden of proof with actual evidence." The brief argues: 

Brenda Andrew’s capital murder prosecution was tainted with irrelevant and prejudicial evidence that spoke not to her criminal culpability, but to her failure to comply with society’s gender-biased expectations about how women should and should not behave. Repeatedly, the prosecution elicited testimony designed to paint Ms. Andrew as a hypersexual seductress and an uncaring mother. The prosecution’s leitmotif of gender deviance was an implicit theme and an explicit exhortation at trial: because Ms. Andrew did not behave as a “virtuous” woman should, the jury should convict her and subject her to the harshest punishment possible. By the time the case was submitted to the jury, the prosecution had deflected the jury’s focus from an inquiry into Ms. Andrew’s guilt or innocence to a referendum on Ms. Andrew’s femininity and morality.


Ms. Andrew’s case is an exceptional example of the Oklahoma County District Attorney’s office weaponizing gender bias to poison proceedings against a female defendant who had no prior criminal record, in a case that involved no allegation of torture or exceptional cruelty. This brief includes a portion of the trove of sexualizing evidence in Ms. Andrew’s trial, and presents scholarship demonstrating how prejudicial that evidence was. Until these prosecutorial tactics are eradicated from American courtrooms, “[j]ustice is likely to remain a lottery while so much depends on the woman’s fulfillment of society’s expectations.” [citation omitted] Amici urge this Court to grant Ms. Andrew’s petition for a writ of certiorari.

February 26, 2024 in Constitutional, Courts, Gender | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ziegler, Cahn, and Suter on "The Massive Legal Fallout from Alabama's IVF Ruling"

Mary Ziegler, Naomi Cahn, and Sonia Suter have published a commentary with MSNBC titled The Massive Legal Fallout from Alabama's IVF Ruling is Just the Beginning. The full published opinion from the Alabama Supreme Court can be accessed here. The Court held that "[t]he central question . . . is whether the Act contains an unwritten exception to that rule for extrauterine children -- that is, unborn children who are located outside of a biological uterus at the time they are killed. Under existing black-letter law, the answer to that question is no: the Wrongful Death of a Minor Act applies to all unborn children, regardless of their location."

Ziegler, Cahn, and Suter preview the problematic breadth of this holding. Here is an excerpt: 

Increasingly, since the Dobbs ruling, states like Alabama put a high price tag on pursuing justice for reproductive harms. While the unintentional destruction of embryos that occurred in this case was well-suited to some sort of legal remedy, it seems perverse to choose between a punitive vision of fetal rights and restitution for those grieving the loss of potential parenthood. There are remedies that don’t go all the way to personhood. Even in the Alabama case, the plaintiffs had other claims unrelated to personhood. Others have claimed breach of contract, malpractice, and even loss of the right to become a parent. 


Instead, the state court turned a case about three couples’ grief into an opportunity to proclaim the close relationship between Christianity and state constitutional law — and to advance an idea of personhood that so-called abolitionists in the anti-abortion movement argue requires the punishment of women themselves. Strikingly absent from the court’s decision, however, is a meaningful discussion of what the decision means for those who seek to become parents – or for those who don’t. 

February 26, 2024 in Abortion, Courts, Family, Healthcare, Pregnancy, Reproductive Rights, Science | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 23, 2024

Challenging the Misuse of Women’s Legal History to Support Anti-Abortion Regulation

It looks like it is time again to reup this article I wrote over a decade ago disputing the use of women’s legal history to claim that nineteenth-century feminist pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton advocated against abortion. Tracy Thomas, Misappropriating Women's History in the Law & Politics of Abortion, 36 Seattle L. Rev. 1 (2012). I also discuss the issue further in my book, Tracy Thomas, Elizabeth Cady Stanton & the Feminist Foundations of Family Law (NYU Press 2016). Post-Dobbs, anti-choice writers have once again resurrected the erroneous claim that Stanton, and other historical feminists like Victoria Woodhull, actively opposed abortion. Erika Bachiochi & Rachel Morrison, Dobbs, Equality and the Contested Meaning of Women's Rights (Texas Review of Law & Politics, forthcoming).

My conclusion as to Stanton was to the contrary. I found that a close look at the historical record shows that Stanton supported—not opposed—women’s right to engage in voluntary, enlightened motherhood by choice. And she opposed state regulation of women’s private decisions and autonomy. Stanton actually said very little about abortion at all, a handful of comments over fifty years, in contrast to her thousands of speeches, writings, and interviews advocating many other demands for women’s rights for social, political, family, and economic citizenship. Instead, Stanton merely used the public debate swirling around abortion triggered by the new criminalization of abortion in the late 1860s as an avenue to voice her other demands for women’s equality, enfranchisement, autonomy, and opportunity.

February 23, 2024 in Abortion, Constitutional, Family, Legal History, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

SCOTUS Denies Cert in Case About Whether Jurors Can Be Excluded for Religious Beliefs Against Lesbian Plaintiff

Lawrence Hurley, NBC News, Supreme Court Declines to Weigh Whether Jurors Can Be Excluded for Religious Beliefs in Case Involving Lesbian Plaintiff

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to consider whether potential jurors in an employment dispute involving a lesbian worker could be excluded because of their religious views on homosexuality.

The court rejected an appeal brought by Missouri Attorney General Andrew Bailey, a Republican, in a case involving allegations of employment discrimination against the state’s Department of Corrections.

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito wrote a statement saying he agreed with the decision not to take up the case for technical legal reasons, but said that it raises important issues.

Jean Finney, an employee, sued the department, saying she was retaliated against by a colleague after she began a same-sex relationship with his former spouse.

During the jury selection process, Finney's lawyer asked potential jurors if they had traditional religious beliefs or had been brought up to believe that "people that are homosexuals shouldn't have the same rights as everyone else."

Based on previous Supreme Court decisions, lawyers are allowed to exclude potential jurors without stating a reason but are barred from doing so on the basis of race and gender.

The case largely focuses on two jurors who said they believed that homosexual activity was a sin. But, the state argues, the jurors also said they believed that homosexuals should have the same rights as everyone else. The judge ultimately excluded three jurors who said they had conservative Christian beliefs.

February 21, 2024 in Constitutional, Gender, LGBT, Religion, SCOTUS | Permalink | Comments (0)

Feminist Pedagogy in Legal Education

Jamie Abrams, Feminist Pedagogy in Legal Education, Oxford Handbook of Feminism & the Law in the U.S. (Deborah Brake, Martha Chamallas & Verna Williams, eds. 2023).

This chapter . . .  traces and evaluates the influences of feminism in legal education. It explores how feminist critiques challenged the substance of legal rules, the methods of law teaching, and the culture of legal education. Following decades of advocacy, feminist pedagogical reforms have generated new fields, new courses, new laws, new leaders, and new feminist spaces. This chapter captures many reasons to celebrate the accomplishments of our feminist pioneers and champions. It also serves as a critical call to action to modern faculty, administrators, and students to carry the work forward with a vigilant purpose and determination.

February 21, 2024 in Education, Law schools, Theory | Permalink | Comments (0)

New Book: Inclusive Socratic Teaching

New book from my co-editor on the Gender & Law Blog. 

Inclusive Socratic Teaching by Jamie R. Abrams

Jamie Abrams, Inclusive Socrative Teaching: Why Law Schools Need it and How to Achieve It (U.C. Press June 2024)

For more than fifty years, scholars have documented and critiqued the marginalizing effects of the Socratic teaching techniques that dominate law school classrooms. In spite of this, law school budgets, staffing models, and course requirements still center Socratic classrooms as the curricular core of legal education. In this clear-eyed book, law professor Jamie R. Abrams catalogs both the harms of the Socratic method and the deteriorating well-being of modern law students and lawyers, concluding that there is nothing to lose and so much to gain by reimagining Socratic teaching. Recognizing that these traditional classrooms are still necessary sites to fortify and catalyze other innovations and values in legal education, Inclusive Socratic Teaching provides concrete tips and strategies to dismantle the autocratic power and inequality that so often characterize these classrooms. A galvanizing call to action, this hands-on guide equips educators and administrators with an inclusive teaching model that reframes the Socratic classroom around teaching techniques that are student centered, skills centered, client centered, and community centered


February 21, 2024 in Books, Education, Law schools | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, February 9, 2024

Why State Laws Banning Transgender Athletes are Unconstitutional

Deborah L. Brake,  Symposium: Gender, Health, and the Constitution--The New Gender Panic in Sport: Why State Laws Banning Transgender Athletes are Unconstitutional, 15 ConLawNOW 35 (2024).

This essay considers the role of sport in the new gender panic of legislative activity targeting transgender individuals, which now extends into health and family governance. Sport was one of the first settings—the gateway—to ignite the current culture war on transgender youth. This analysis examines how Title IX of the Education Act of 1972, the popular law responsible for the growth of opportunities for girls and women in sports, has been mobilized in service of a broader gender agenda. Far from providing a persuasive justification for the state laws banning transgender girls from girls’ sports, Title IX, properly understood, supports the case for transgender inclusion, not exclusion. Lacking a genuinely substantial connection to the preservation of girls’ and women’s athletic opportunities, state laws excluding transgender girls and women from sports violate the Equal Protection Clause. And these laws also have implications to health more generally and to other constitutional controversies.

February 9, 2024 in LGBT, Sports | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ohio AG Keeps Lawsuit Alive Defending 6 Week Abortion Ban Even After Voters Passed Constitutional Amendment for Reproductive Freedom

News 5 Cleveland, Ohio AG Fighting for "Other Provisions" in 6-Week Abortion Ban, Maintains Ban is Unconstitutional

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost asked that the Hamilton County Court of Common Pleas throw out a lawsuit that would eliminate the six-week abortion ban, just months after saying that said ban would be void if voters chose to legalize and protect access to abortion.

Now, Yost’s team is explaining that although the filing has no explicit mention of this, the AG only wants to fight for "other provisions" — and not the ban itself.***

The AG’s office filed a procedural document Friday that responds to all claims that were made by six-week ban challengers, including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU of Ohio, and indicates arguments the office will make throughout the life of the lawsuit.

The response by the Attorney General’s Office is a common legal document that is required as part of the legal process, according to Case Western Reserve University constitutional law professor Jonathan Entin.

“The lawyer's job is to provide the strongest case with the strongest set of arguments available on behalf of the client's position,” Entin said. “The attorney general's client is the state.”

Tracy Thomas, University of Akron director of constitutional law, said it came as a surprise that the state attorney is continuing the lawsuit fight to try to save the law.

“Given the vote [on Issue 1], given the governor saying ‘we’re going to respect the vote,’ I think what was expected was not keeping this lawsuit going,” Thomas said.

Immediately after the abortion amendment passed, DeWine told News 5 that he did “certainly accept the results of Issue 1 in Ohio.”” 

But given the polarizing politics on the issue of abortion rights, Thomas said keeping the lawsuit going, if just to delay a ruling until more legislative decisions on reproductive rights can be made, could be one strategy at play.

“Laws and constitutions are only as good as the courts enforcing them,” she said.

February 9, 2024 in Abortion, Courts, Reproductive Rights | Permalink | Comments (0)