Recovering the LaFleur Doctrine

Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Vol. 22, 2010

Emory Legal Studies Research Paper

64 Pages Posted: 28 Jun 2010 Last revised: 21 Nov 2017

See all articles by Deborah Dinner

Deborah Dinner

Cornell Law School; affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: June 27, 2010


The landmark 1974 case of Cleveland Board of Education v. LaFleur, which held pregnancy dismissal policies unconstitutional, deserves a far more prominent place in our constitutional history and canon than the case now holds. This article uses novel historical research to recover the activism that gave rise to LaFleur and the multiple, significant meanings of the decision for workers, school boards, feminist lawyers, and the legal academy. In the early 1970s, women’s rights organizing within unions, grassroots feminist activism, and sex discrimination law all evolved in symbiotic relationship. Labor and legal feminists argued for sex equality and reproductive liberty as interdependent, necessary conditions for women to realize the status of rights-holding persons under the Fourteenth Amendment. Although decided upon the basis of an incoherent and quickly discredited theory of procedural due process, the LaFleur decision also grappled with the relationship between women’s rights to equal employment and to privacy in reproductive decision-making. Today, rigid doctrinal categories sever the constitutional right to sex equality from the right to reproductive liberty. Recovering the LaFleur doctrine entails remembering an activist vision that viewed these rights as inextricably related, as well as a moment at which the Court contemplated the significance of that relationship to women’s citizenship.

Keywords: Constitutional Law, Gender and the Law, Legal History, Feminism, Equal Protection, Reproductive Rights

Suggested Citation

Dinner, Deborah and Dinner, Deborah, Recovering the LaFleur Doctrine (June 27, 2010). Yale Journal of Law and Feminism, Vol. 22, 2010, Emory Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

Deborah Dinner (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Cornell Law School ( email )

Myron Taylor Hall
Cornell Law School
Ithaca, NY 14853
United States
607-255-1698 (Phone)

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