Sex Discrimination in the Nineties, Seventies Style: Case Studies in the Preservation of Male Norms

Michael Selmi, George Washington University Law School


Contemporary sex discrimination is generally thought to have changed significantly in the last two decades, becoming more subtle and often having to do with achieving a balance between the demands of work and home life. This paper presents case studies of class action lawsuits alleging sex discrimination that have been filed in the last decade. Those lawsuits have targeted specific industries, grocery stores and brokerage firms, and practices, sexual harassment, and these cases challenge the common perception that discrimination has become more subtle and less pervasive. These cases typically involve overt discriminatory practices based on sexual stereotypes, and can also be explained as efforts by male employees and management to preserve male norms. The paper describes the cases and also seeks to explain the cases as a form of harassment designed to preserve male advantages in the workplace.