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Sex Discrimination and the United States Supreme Court: Developments in the Law

CRS – Sex Discrimination and the United States Supreme Court: Developments in the Law, Jody Feder, Legislative Attorney. December 30, 2015.
“In its sex discrimination decisions, the United States Supreme Court not only has defined the applicability of the equal protection guarantees of the Constitution and the nondiscriminatory policies of federal statutes, but also has rejected the use of gender stereotypes and has continued to recognize the discriminatory effect of gender hostility in the workplace and in schools. This report focuses on sex discrimination challenges based on: the equal protection guarantees of the Fourteenth and Fifth Amendments; the prohibition against employment discrimination contained in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; and the prohibition against sex discrimination in education contained in Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. Although this report focuses on recent legal developments in each of these areas, this report also provides historical context by discussing selected landmark sex discrimination cases. Despite the fact that the Court’s analysis of sex discrimination challenges under the Constitution differs from its analysis of sex discrimination under the two federal statutes di scussed in this report, it is apparent that the Court is willing to refine its standards of review under both schemes to accommodate the novel claims presented by these cases. The Court’s decisions in cases involving Title VII and Title IX are particularly noteworthy because they illustrate the Court’s recognition of sexual harassment in both the workplace and the classroom. During the 2015 term, the Court issued a ruling in a high-profile case involving a claim of pregnancy discrimination in employment. In Young v. United Parcel Service , an employee challenged her employer’s refusal to grant her a light-duty work assignment while she was pregnant, claiming that the employer’s actions violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), a federal law that prohibits pregnancy discrimination in employment. In a highly anticipated ruling, the Justices fashioned a new test for determining when an employer’s refusal to provide accommodations for a pregnant worker constitutes a violation of the PDA, and the Court sent the case back to the lower court for reconsideration in light of these new standards.”

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