Accommodating the Female Body: A Disability Paradigm of Sex Discrimination

19 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2007 Last revised: 23 Feb 2010


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.

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

Suggested Citation

Roberts, Jessica L., Accommodating the Female Body: A Disability Paradigm of Sex Discrimination. University of Colorado Law Review, 2008. Available at SSRN:

Jessica L. Roberts (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

Houston, TX 77204
United States

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