Federal Court Paves Way for Case on Gender Discrimination

A federal court earlier this month ruled that employers who insinuate that working mothers are not committed to their jobs can be found guilty of gender discrimination.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the way for the case of New York school psychologist Elana Back to proceed to trial. Back alleges that as she approached tenure review, she was repeatedly told that she could not balance work and motherhood. She claimed that her supervisors denied her tenure even though she had received excellent performance reviews both before and after giving birth, according to the New York Law Journal.

Back contends that the school’s principal told her that she “did not know how [Back] could perform [her] job with little ones,” and that administrators told her that her job “was not for mothers” and that they believed the quality of her performance would deteriorate if she received tenure, according to the Associated Press.

The appeals court, in ruling that the case could proceed, said that the case “strikes at the persistent fault line between work and family – precisely where sex-based overgeneralization has been and remains strongest,” according to the AP.

“This case makes important strides in what is really a new and evolving type of case, that of caregiver discrimination,” said Joan Williams, a law professor at American University and director of the University’s Program on WorkLife Law, in a news release.


New York Law Journal 4/9/04; Associated Press 4/8/04; AU news release 4/14/04

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