Title VII’s Midlife Crisis: The Case of Constructive Discharge – Article by Martha Chamallas

From Volume 77, Number 2 (January 2004)

Understanding Title VII law has never been easy. From the beginning, there have been sharp disputes about the meaning of “discrimination” under the Act and the degree to which employers should be held strictly accountable for discriminatory actions of supervisors and employees. Early debates tended to pit those who envisioned the Act as a results-oriented measure aimed at ending racial and gender hierarchies in the workplace against those who viewed the legislation primarily as a process-oriented check against the use of race or gender as a factor in employer decisionmaking. The former generally endorsed a broad interpretation of the Act generous to plaintiffs, while the latter tended to be more receptive to interpretations favoring employers.

The fault lines in contemporary scholarship are much harder to characterize. Contemporary doctrinal debates have tended to focus narrowly on particular statutory provisions or modes of proof, and emerging theories do not always line up as predictably along ideological lines. The interplay between Congress and the Supreme Court has only made things messier: On several occasions, Congress has stepped in to express its disapproval of conservative Court rulings, without, however, dramatically changing the prevailing judicial approach to interpreting the Act. The last major statutory revision was the 1991 Civil Rights Act, a sweeping reform that affected each major framework of liability, introduced jury trials, and significantly altered the remedial scheme of the Act.



Through the Looking Glass: Racial Jokes, Social Context, and the Reasonable Person in Hostile Work Environment Analysis – Note by Melissa K. Hughes

From Volume 76, Number 6 (September 2003)

Communicating ethnic animosity through humor has long been an American tradition. As early as the seventeenth century, Americans have utilized racial jokes to ridicule the culture, dialect, dress, and traditions of each new wave of immigrants. Images of “little black Sambo,” “the drunken Irishman,” and “the stupid Pole” have helped to define which ethnic groups are accepted and which remain on the fringe of society. Although racial jokes convey a wide variety of messages ranging from friendly teasing to flagrant racism, when channeling racism and hostility they comprise one of the greatest weapons in the “repertory of the human mind.” Furthermore, while many dismiss jokes as a nonserious form of communication, racial jokes historically have played an important role in the development of American race relations.

In the decades following the civil rights movement, minority groups successfully applied political and social pressure to persuade Americans to oust racial jokes from the public sphere. Joseph Boskin, a leading scholar on ethnic humor, contends that despite the invention of politically sensitive speech, the popularity of racial jokes in the closing decades of the twentieth century skyrocketed nationwide. Ida L. Castro, the Chairwoman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) stated, “[t]he Commission is seeing a disturbing national trend of increased racial harassment and retaliation at workplaces across the country. This harassment at work sites includes egregious behavior which is reminiscent of the days of the civil rights movement.” This simultaneous resurgence of racial jokes and harassment reveals that discrimination remains a pressing social and legal issue.



The Cost of Older Workers: How the ADEA Has Been Interpreted to Allow Employers to Fire Older Employees Based on Cost Concerns – Article by Lee Franck

From Volume 76, Number 6 (September 2003)

The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”) was enacted to promote the ability of older workers to compete in today’s marketplace. It recognized a disturbing change in the way that companies were treating older workers. Historically, older workers were regarded as a valuable commodity because of their skill and experience. The advance of the modern age brought about a shift in ideologies in corporate America. Older workers came to be considered a liability in the fast-paced business world. Congress drafted the ADEA to eliminate unfounded stereotypes of older workers as less productive and more expensive to employ. It gave statutory protection against discrimination to anyone over forty years of age.



Gerontology and the Law: A Selected Annotated Bibliography: 1999-2001 Update – Bibliography by Diana C. Jaque, Jennifer S. Murray, & Jessica Wimer

From Volume 76, Number 3 (March 2003)

This bibliography serves as the 1999–2001 update to Gerontology and the Law: A Selected Annotated Bibliography. The Gerontology and the Law Bibliography was first published in the Law Library Journal in 1980. Subsequently, six updates to the bibliography were published in the Southern California Law Review between the years 1982 and 1999. The original bibliography and the five subsequent updates provided citations of books, reports, and articles focusing on law-related topics concerning gerontology, the elderly, and aging. Following the format of the sixth update, this seventh update is more specific than its early predecessors in terms of its coverage of topics and types of materials. Like the sixth update, this annotated bibliography provides descriptive annotations that summarize the topics and/or major points discussed in the cited books or articles.