Analysis and Commentary on Civil Rights
Local Control: Massachusetts Law Provides Stronger Protection Against Sexual Harassment than Federal Law

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by a federal district court applying Massachusetts law that demonstrates the power of tough state antidiscrimination laws. Grossman describes the facts of the case and the differences between Massachusetts and federal law and explains why robust state laws have the power to hold institutions liable when they delegate authority to those who abuse it.

“He Took It Like a Man”: Harvey Weinstein’s Conviction and the Limits of Discrimination Law

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the recent conviction of Harvey Weinstein for criminal sexual assault in the first degree and rape in the third degree. Grossman points out that our country’s antidiscrimination laws do not actually protect the people they intend to protect, instead focusing on employer policies and procedures. She argues that we should take this opportunity to learn from the system of criminal law, which did work in this case, to fix the antidiscrimination laws that purport to protect against sexual harassment and misconduct.

Letting His Hair Down: Why a School District in Texas Is Wrong to Deprive a Male Student of an Education Because of the Length of His Hair

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman and Duke law professor Katharine T. Bartlett explain why a public school district in Texas violated both the federal Constitution and Title IX by having (and enforcing) a hair-length policy for boys but not for girls. Grossman and Bartlett describe the facts of the case and the legal landscape for sex-specific dress and appearance policies before concluding that the school district’s decision to enforce the policy was not only poor judgment but illegal.

A Win for Equal Pay: The Third Circuit Court of Appeals Upholds A Law Designed to Address Wage Gap

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit upholding a local law designed to address the wage gap. Grossman describes the landscape of equal pay law and the efforts some states and localities have made to address the inequity.

Dear Harvey: You Are the Spark that Started the #MeToo Movement

Joanna L. Grossman, law professor at SMU Dedman School of Law, reviews how disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein started the #MeToo movement. Grossman details the origins of the #MeToo movement, particularly Weinstein’s role, and describes how Weinstein’s despicable behavior helped to illuminate and begin to address sexual misconduct not only by individuals, but throughout entire industries.

Same-Sex Couples, Identical Twins, and the Text of Title VII: Point-Counterpoint

Cornell law 3L Jareb Gleckel and professor Sherry F. Colb discuss, in point-counterpoint style, one aspect of the legal issue presented in Altitude Express v. Zarda—in which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from discriminating against their employees based on sexual orientation. Gleckel argues that sexual orientation discrimination does not qualify as sex discrimination under the text of Title VII and describes a hypothetical example in support of his argument. In response, Colb first addresses Gleckel’s formalistic argument and then contends, even assuming Gleckel’s premise to be true, that because the policy at issue in Zarda discriminates between men and women both formally and in a manner that inflicts a gender-relevant injury, it violates the text of Title VII.

Reducing Pregnancy Discrimination, One Accommodation at a Time

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman discusses a recent decision by a federal district court in Louisiana correctly applying the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Young v. United Parcel Service. Grossman describes the facts of that case and explains how Young affected the outcome; she argues that many cases decided before Young should come out differently now, but only if courts carefully apply the new standard to the facts before them.

“She Slept Her Way to the Top”: The Fourth Circuit Pushes Back on a Harmful Gender Stereotype

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit that spreading a false rumor that a woman “slept her way to the top” constitutes sex discrimination. Grossman points out that this case raises yet another example of the many ways in which working women do not compete on an equal playing field.

The Pregnant Pause: Placing Elizabeth Warren’s Experience of Pregnancy Discrimination in Historical Context

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on the recent revelation by Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren that she experienced pregnancy discrimination in 1971. Grossman points out that if we as a society are skeptical that pregnancy discrimination was commonplace in 1971, before it became unlawful, then it must be even harder for some to believe that women continue to experience discrimination today.

Decoupling Determinations of Sexual Misconduct from Title IX: UIUC #MeToo Reform

Illinois law professor Lesley Wexler comments on a recent report on Faculty Sexual Misconduct issued by a committee at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign that calls for a sweeping overhaul of the University’s approach to sexual harassment. Wexler begins to explore the proposed reforms, describing the major changes and what they aim to address, and she raises some of the questions that the reforms present.

Let’s Restore the Public Good to a Place of Honor and End Vaccination Exemptions Other Than Those Absolutely Necessary

Marci A. Hamilton, professor at the University of Pennsylvania and CEO of CHILD USA, calls for an end to legislative exemptions to mandatory childhood vaccinations, except those that are absolutely necessary. Hamilton explains why these exemptions undermine the public good and endanger children.

Exploring Cy Pres, Restorative Justice, and Earned Redemption through Fleabag: Part II in a Series

In this second of a series of columns, Illinois law professors Lesley Wexler, Jennifer Robbennolt, and Jennie Pahre continue their discussion of the legal mechanism of cy pres—by which a court decides a remedy based on how closely it serves the intended purpose (originally from the law of trusts). The authors draw upon the plot and characters of the television show Fleabag to illustrate how restorative justice might help re-center the #MeToo debate away from its seemingly sole punitive focus and more towards the twin purposes of victim restoration and deterrence.

Legislating LGBTQ Rights From the Courts in the United States and Brazil

Brazilian legal scholar Igor de Lazari, Brazilian law professor Antonio G. Sepulveda, and attorney David S. Kemp compare the evolving recognition of the rights of LGBTQ individuals in Brazil and the United States. De Lazari, Sepulveda, and Kemp describe specifically the role of courts in recognizing these rights and establishing protections in the absence of clear legislation.

Small Steps Forward: New York Legislature Increases Protections for Sexual Harassment Victims

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman describes recently passed anti-discrimination laws in New York that improve protections for victims of sexual harassment and assult. Grossman describes the role of the #MeToo movement in increasing awareness of the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault and praises New York for being a leader in protecting the rights of women.

The 100-Year Anniversary of the First State Ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment: Reflections on the Breadth of Freedom from Discrimination in the “Right to Vote”

In honor of the 100th anniversary of Illinois’ ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Illinois law dean and professor Vikram David Amar reflects on what it means to be free from discrimination in the right to vote. Amar points out the connection between the right against discrimination in voting and the right discrimination in jury service and calls upon us all to consider what full, equal citizenship means.

Use It or Lose It: The Supreme Court Gets a Procedural Point About Title VII Unanimously Right

SMU Dedman School of Law professor Joanna L. Grossman comments on a recent unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court clarifying a procedural point about Title VII and the requirements of employees filing discrimination claims in federal court. As Grossman explains, the Court’s opinion correctly minimizes the importance of a technical requirement of employees and might as a result provide greater protection to employees who suffer from workplace discrimination.

SCOTUS LGBT Discrimination Case Will Test Conservative Commitment to Textualism

Cornell law professor Michael C. Dorf comments on three cases in which the US Supreme Court recently granted review that together present the question whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 forbids employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Dorf points out that the cases pose a test for the Court’s conservative majority—whether they will keep faith with their textualist commitment and rule for the plaintiffs or instead follow their conservative social views and rule for the defendant employers.

Untethered Textualism in the Seventh Circuit’s Kleber Ruling on Age Bias in Hiring

NYU law professor Samuel Estreicher comments on a recent decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit that purports to interpret the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) based on a textualist approach. Estreicher argues that the interpretation erroneously ignores the clear purpose of ADEA and constitutes a highly abstract interpretive venture that departs significantly from the legislators’ manifest intent.

A Police Shooting and the Power of Narratives

Cornell law professor Sherry F. Colb describes two different narrative lenses through which one could perceive (and interpret) the shooting of an unarmed African American man by a white police officer: the “Blue Lives Matter” narrative and the “Black Lives Matter” narrative. Colb explains how such narratives shape public reactions to such incidents, and she calls upon everyone to pay attention to the facts and feel less wedded to our narratives so that we may be better able to deal with and sometimes even prevent future hardship.

Holy Dictum: Federal Judge Rejects Protection Against Transgender Discrimination in “Elegant Aside”

SMU Dedman School of Law professors Joanna L. Grossman and Grant M. Hayden comment on a concurring opinion by a Fifth Circuit judge that goes well out of its way to make illogical arguments regarding transgender discrimination under Title VII. Grossman and Hayden briefly describe the history of courts’ interpretation of Title VII and explain, point by point, why Judge James Ho’s writing is merely an “op-ed piece masquerading as a concurring opinion.”

Meet our Columnists
Vikram David Amar
Vikram David Amar

Vikram David Amar is the Dean and Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois... more

Neil H. Buchanan
Neil H. Buchanan

Neil H. Buchanan, an economist and legal scholar, holds the James J. Freeland Eminent Scholar... more

Sherry F. Colb
Sherry F. Colb

Sherry F. Colb is the C.S. Wong Professor of Law at Cornell University. Colb teaches courses in... more

John Dean
John Dean

John Dean served as Counsel to the President of the United States from July 1970 to April 1973.... more

Michael C. Dorf
Michael C. Dorf

Michael C. Dorf is the Robert S. Stevens Professor of Law at Cornell University Law School. He... more

Joanna L. Grossman
Joanna L. Grossman

Joanna L. Grossman is the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and Law at SMU Dedman School... more

Marci A. Hamilton
Marci A. Hamilton

MARCI A. HAMILTON is the Fels Institute of Government Professor of Practice, and Fox Family... more

Joseph Margulies
Joseph Margulies

Mr. Margulies is a Professor of Law and Government at Cornell University. He was Counsel of... more

Lesley Wexler
Lesley Wexler

Lesley Wexler is a Professor of Law at the University of Illinois College of Law. Immediately... more