Published on March 13, 2009 | by LawNews
Prof. Joanna Grossman Writes Findlaw Column ‘Sex-Stereotyping and Dress Codes Under Title VII: Why Courts Can’t Get it Right’
Joanna L. Grossman, Professor of Law & Associate Dean for Faculty Development, is a FindLaw columnist. Her latest column “Sex-Stereotyping and Dress Codes Under Title VII: Why Courts Can’t Get it Right” appeared March 3, 2009. FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business, is the world’s leading provider of online legal information and Internet marketing solutions for law firms.
In 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins that Title VII – the main federal anti-discrimination statute — prohibits employers from penalizing employees for failing to conform to the gender stereotypes associated with their sex. Yet, two decades later, courts continue to show ambivalence in sex-stereotyping cases.
More specifically, courts continue to uphold employers’ dress and grooming policies that differentiate by sex and, in the course of doing so, demand that their employees adhere to the stereotypical appearance standards assigned to their sex. A recent federal court ruling, in Creed v. Family Express Corporation, involving a transsexual employee, illustrates – and repeats – the mistake of many other courts that have refused to see these policies as a form of illegal sex-stereotyping.