Divergent Paths: Conflicting Conceptions of Employment Discrimination in Law and the Social Sciences
Posted: 27 Dec 2008
Date Written: December, 23 2008
Legal conceptions of employment discrimination have become increasingly narrow over the past two decades as the law has adopted a "perpetrator" model of discrimination that emphasizes purposeful intent. This tendency runs counter to social scientific research that documents the pervasiveness of unintentional bias and the persistence of organizational processes that generate workplace discrimination. This narrow legal conception, coupled with a system of employment discrimination litigation that emphasizes individual claims and individual remedies, fails to support the organizational approaches that are most promising for redressing workplace discrimination. We review the literature on employment discrimination law, discrimination litigation, continuing patterns of racial and gender inequality, the organizational bases of discrimination, and the impact of equal employment law on organizations. We conclude by discussing the reasons for and implications of this divergence between law and social science.
Keywords: systematic discrimination, implicit bias, discrimination litigation, organizations
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