5 Pages

The Pay Gap Is Closing . . . The Race/Gender Order Remains

In U.A.W. v. Johnson Controls (1991), the Supreme Court ruled that FPPs violated Title VII because they classified employees on the basis of gender and childbearing capacities, rather than on their individual circumstances. The employer tried to argue that the policy was a legitimate application of BFOQ, by protecting the health of offspring. Justice Blackmun disagreed: “Decisions about the welfare of future children must be left to the parents who conceive, bear, support, and raise rather than the employers who hire those parents” (p. 207). Prior to the Johnson Controls case, employers who treated all women employees as if they were potentially pregnant could evade Title VII’s antidiscrimination net. By using individual-rights theory to undermine these policies, the courts have not stilled the debate over the conflict between the work and family responsibilities that women face.