Labor and Employment Law

Ca. Labor & Emp't Rev. July 2014, Volume 28 No. 4

Message From the Chair

By Carol Koenig

Carol Koenig is a non-equity partner at Wylie, McBride, Platten & Renner. Her primary area of practice is labor law, representing both private and public sector unions and their members throughout the state in all aspects of labor law and relations. Ms. Koenig is the author of the "Fair Labor Standards Act" chapter in the Section’s treatise, California Public Sector Employment Law. She spends much of her limited spare time raising funds for non-profit organizations by participating in endurance events such as triathlons, bike rides, and running events.

This issue of the Law Review recognizes and celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) by featuring two insightful articles on the Act. The first, Civil Rights at 50, provides an abbreviated history of the events leading up to the Act’s passage, highlighting the roles played by Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, and President John F. Kennedy in setting the stage for President Lyndon Baines Johnson to step in and steer the Act toward passage. The article, authored by Eva Jefferson Paterson, Bryan Schwartz, and Danielle Tozol Fong, also touches on key U.S. Supreme Court cases that struck down some of the most egregious discriminatory acts by employers and explains how those seminal cases have led to real reforms that affect real lives. Finally, while expressing some concern about more recent cases that could be perceived as a setback to the ongoing fight to eradicate bias from workplace decisions, the article ends on an optimistic note—recognizing that we still have a long way to go, but believing that we can get there if both employer- and employee-side attorneys work at it.

The second article, Putting Intent in Its Place: A New Direction for Title VII, appears to start where Civil Rights at 50 ends. Author Noah Zatz begins by stating that, after 50 years, Title VII faces a fork in the road. He also recognizes that we have a long way to go before employment discrimination based on race, gender, color, religion, national origin, and disability are erased. He suggests taking a different path—that instead of focusing on discriminatory intent and/or disparate treatment, we instead focus on the "causal connection" between a harm (e.g., loss of employment) and race, color, religion, sex, national origin, or disability. Zatz’s article is definitely thought-provoking, and I am certain that I have not done it justice with my rather simple summary. Both of the Title VII articles warrant reading.

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