The University of Chicago Undergraduate Law Review (UCULR) is a student-run publication dedicated to the discussion, analysis, interpretation, and evaluation of a variety of legal issues. It aims to provide a better understanding of the law in all of its ambiguities and contradictions in order to reveal how complex compilations of regulatory components can not only serve as reflections of social attitudes towards general ideas of order, agency, consent, power, and choice, but influence the most minute details of everyday life.
Appearance Discrimination, Title VII, and the BFOQ: A Cross-Circuit Analysis of Sexually Discriminatory Appearance Policies
Abstract: In order to determine Title VII’s capacity to fight appearance discrimination in the workplace, this study examines a cross-circuit split that highlights the present indeterminacy of modern sex discrimination law. In one case, a plaintiff alleging a claim of workplace gender discrimination prevailed on her claims—as a result of the Eighth Circuit's decision in Lewis v. Heartland Inns of America, 591 F. 3d 1033 (8th Cir. 2010). Yet, in a second case, a different circuit rejected the nearly identical claims of a similar plaintiff—see the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in Jespersen v. Harrah’s Operating Co., 444 F. 3d 1104 (9th Cir. 2006) (en banc).
Part I of this article establishes the background of both cases and the relevant precedents upon which they relied. In Part II, I outline the existing literature on appearance discrimination, Title VII, and an integral exception to Title VII: the bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). I then provide a brief description of my methodology in Part III, followed by a cross-circuit analysis of the Jesperson and Lewis opinions in Part IV. Finally, in Part V, I explore the implications of this study for appearance discrimination litigation, discuss the need for greater guidance from the Supreme Court and Congress, and suggest avenues for further research.
Author: Emily Vernon is a fourth-year at Northwestern University, majoring in American Studies and Legal Studies and minoring in Chinese.
FEATURED BLOG POST
Abstract: Since major decisions in Citizens United v. FEC in 2010 and McCutcheon v. FEC in 2014, campaign finance reform has become a particularly hot topic. Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico introduced Senate Joint Resolution 19 earlier this summer, proposing an Amendment to the Constitution that would provide Congress with the authority to regulate federal elections spending. While the resolution was destined to fail, it raises interesting questions about how the Amendment process works, and how States have the power to act when Congress is too dysfunctional to make a real impact.
Author: Frank Yan is a third-year in the College, majoring in Economics and Political Science.