Litigating Sex Discrimination Cases in the 1970s

By Rabb, Harriet S. | Columbia Journal of Gender and Law, Summer 2013 | Go to article overview

Litigating Sex Discrimination Cases in the 1970s


Rabb, Harriet S., Columbia Journal of Gender and Law


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (1) made it unlawful for an employer to hire or fire an employee or to discriminate by classifying, compensating, or denying opportunity to an employee on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Sex as a protected category was an afterthought. The bill was opposed by many in Congress, among them a Virginia representative who caused the bill to be amended to add sex--perhaps expecting that the protection of women-workers would result in killing the bill. Another Congressman proposed that a woman should not be permitted to claim sex discrimination unless she filed a sworn statement that her spouse was unemployed. Those maneuvers failed, and the Act passed. It went into effect on July 1, 1965.

Though Title VII promised women equality of employment opportunity, even many supporters of women's rights were committed to protecting women as workers while preserving their traditional roles as wives and mothers. I recommend to you the scholarship of Cary Franklin for a wonderful and illuminating look back at these times. (2)

At the initiative of Columbia Law Professor George Cooper, in the fall of 1971, Columbia opened the Employment Rights Project, a clinical course offering, "staffed," as it were, by our students, with George and me, newly hired, as its instructors. One of the students in our early semesters--Howard Rubin--after graduation, joined me as an instructor, and George returned to classroom teaching.

In those early days, cases were made largely by looking at the defendant employer's job structure and finding blatant segregation and resulting salary discrimination. Two of the Clinic's earliest cases--against Newsweek magazine and the New York Telephone Company--succeeded largely on that foundation. The Newsweek women were pioneers who filed their first complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1970. Those working on Newsweek's editorial side were all too personally familiar with the widely-known truth that, at a national news magazine, a man behind a typewriter was a "Writer," while a woman behind a typewriter was a "Researcher." Though Newsweek signed a Memorandum of Understanding with its women employees, little in the workplace changed. Disappointed by management's broken promises to desegregate the magazine's jobs, in May-June 1972, fifty Newsweek women filed charges at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the New York State Division of Human Rights. The settlement, one year later, provided many positive management commitments, among them hiring and assignment goals--including the appointment of a woman in editorial management. Lynn Povich, lead Newsweek plaintiff, tells the whole story in her book to be published in the fall of this year. (3)

The plaintiff class at the New York Telephone Company (4) was composed of 2200 management level women in the Traffic Department of the Company where, for example, women held 98% of the lowest management jobs earning half the salary of men who held 80% of the top management jobs. Useful testimony supplemented our statistical case. The company's General Personnel Supervisor, for example, testified that military experience--but not teaching experience--showed "supervisory skill," and when asked how the company had validated that measure, he replied, "I guess I'm paid to make this type of judgment." The case settled before trial with goals and timetables and salary increases for women in the class.

Somewhat closer to home, in 1971 and 1972, at the close of late summer interviewing season, women at NYU School of Law and Columbia Law School were filing administrative employment discrimination complaints against major New York City law firms. The Clinic represented them. What those women were up against was captured at the end of a negotiation session just prior to our filing two of the cases in federal court. The Royall Koegel & Wells attorney representing his own firm closed the meeting by saying, "I do see what you're saying. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Litigating Sex Discrimination Cases in the 1970s
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.