The Situationist

Posts Tagged ‘sex discrimination’

The Situation of Situation in Employment Discrimination Law – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on April 18, 2009

Red Stapler - Codefin (flickr)Melissa Hart and Paul Secunda have posted their excellent paper, “A Matter of Context: Social Framework Evidence in Employment Discrimination Class Actions” (forthcoming 78 Fordham Law Review (2009)) on SSRN.  Here is the abstract.

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In litigation disputes over the certification of employment discrimination class actions, social scientists have come to play a central, yet controversial, role. Organizational behavioralists and social psychologists regularly testify for the plaintiffs, offering what is commonly referred to as social framework testimony. These experts explain the general social science research on the operation of stereotyping and bias in decisionmaking and examine the policies and practices operating in a challenged workplace to identify those that research has shown will tend to increase and those that will tend to limit the likely impact of these factors. Defendants fight hard against the admission of social framework experts, and some courts have agreed that the testimony should not be allowed. Because of the importance of this testimony to ferreting out large-scale discrimination in the workplace, the stakes in the debate over its admissibility are considerable.

The debate has moved recently from the courtroom to the pages of law reviews. In an essay published last fall, three academics argued that social framework testimony as it is commonly accepted by district courts should be categorically disallowed. The arguments for the exclusion of social framework testimony as it is currently presented in employment discrimination class action litigation are fundamentally flawed. A blanket exclusion of this evidence is inconsistent with the Federal Rules of Evidence and Supreme Court precedent on the district courts’ responsibility for assessing the admissibility of expert testimony more generally.

This article puts the debate over social framework expert testimony in context, explaining what the testimony is and the role it has played in employment discrimination litigation, with a particular focus on the way the testimony has been offered in class action suits like Dukes v. Wal-Mart. It explains how the normal rules of evidence law should apply to social framework expert testimony, and under the flexible and permissive standards of the Federal Rules of Evidence, framework testimony offered by a qualified expert should be admissible in many employment class actions. The argument that this kind of evidence should always be excluded is driven as much by a particular view of employment discrimination law as by the governing evidentiary rules. Ultimately, the arguments for blanket exclusion of social framework testimony in these cases can best be understood as part of a political debate and a litigation strategy.

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You can download the paper for free here.  For a sample of related Situationist posts, see “Litigating Unconscious Discrimination – Abstract” and “Implicit Bias and Strawmen.”

Posted in Abstracts, Implicit Associations, Law, Legal Theory, Naive Cynicism | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Subtly Sexist Language – Abstract

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 27, 2008

Pat K. Chew and Lauren Kelley-Chew recently posted their interesting article, Subtly Sexist Language (16 Columbia Journal of Gender and Law 643 (2007) on SSRN.  Here’s the abstract.

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Sometimes, sexist language is blatant and universally shunned. Other times, it is more subtle and even socially acceptable. For instance, as summarized in this article, substantial social science research has considered the use of male-gendered generics (the use of such words as he, man, chairman, or mankind to represent both women and men) rather than gender-neutral alternatives (such as she or he, human, chairperson, or humankind). This research concludes that male-gendered generics are exclusionary of women and tend to reinforce gender stereotypes. Yet, these words may not be recognized as discriminatory because their use is perceived as normative and therefore not unusual. In addition, those who use these words may not be intentionally harmful. Complaining about their use may even be criticized as a trivial activity or an overly sensitive reaction.

Given this social science research, there is a surprising absence of awareness on the use and effect of these words among lawyers, law faculty, law student, and judges. Based on our original empirical analysis of hundreds of legal documents (judicial opinions, legal briefs, and law review articles), we find that the legal community continues to use male-gendered words even though gender-neutral alternatives exist. Thus, while some judges, lawyers, and legal scholars may not intend to be sexist, they are being subtly sexist. The research reveals a strong general pattern of the dominant use of the male-gendered option in a number of word pairs (four out of the nine word pairs) and substantial use in three other word pairs. In contrast, there is the dominant use of the gender-neutral word option in two word pairs.

Finally, the article offers some proactive suggestions. While the legal community is reluctant to change, it did shift from using the male-gendered option of reasonable man to the gender-neutral reasonable person. We suggest that this change occurred because of the legal community’s heightened awareness of the sexist nature of the use of reasonable man, and that a heightened awareness of the subtle sexism of all male-gendered generics could prompt further changes. The article ends with a useful guide on gender neutral language that can be duplicated for distribution in the legal community and elsewhere.

Posted in Abstracts, Law | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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