Accommodating the Female Body: A Disability Paradigm of Sex Discrimination

Jessica L. Roberts

University of Houston Law Center

University of Colorado Law Review, 2008

This Article presents a novel approach for understanding sex discrimination in the workplace by integrating three distinct areas of scholarship: disability studies, employment law, and architectural design. Borrowing from disabilities studies, I argue that the built environment serves as a situs of sex discrimination. In the first Part, I explain how the concept of disability has progressed from a problem located within the body of an individual with a disability to the failings of the built environment in which that person functions. Using this paradigm, in the next Part, I reframe workplaces constructed for male workers as instruments of sex discrimination. I then explain how built environments intended for the male body constitute disparate impact under Title VII. In the final Part, I present the architectural school of universal design, which has been a source of crucial innovation in the area of disability rights, as a means for both de-abling and de-sexing the workplace.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 19

Keywords: Law, Women, Employment, Discrimination, Antidiscrimination, Sex Discrimination, Title VII, Disability, Universal Design, Gender, Accommodation, Built Environment, Workplace, Facially Neutral

JEL Classification: J70, J71, J78, J79, K19, K31, K39

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Date posted: November 7, 2007 ; Last revised: February 23, 2010

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Jessica L., Accommodating the Female Body: A Disability Paradigm of Sex Discrimination. University of Colorado Law Review, 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1027209

Contact Information

Jessica L. Roberts (Contact Author)
University of Houston Law Center ( email )
Houston, TX 77204
United States
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