Skip to main content

Women and the Law Conference 2006

February 10, 2006

Sexuality at Work

2006 Ruth Bader

Ginsburg Lecturer

Professor Vicki Schultz

Ford Foundation

Professor of Law,

Yale Law School

  • Is sexual conduct appropriate in the workplace?
  • Does a sexually-charged employment setting work to the detriment of women, or
  • Does sanitizing the workplace actually impede gender equality?

These provocative questions are the subject of this year’s Women and the Law Conference, hosted by the Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s Project on Women and the Law. The answer to these controversial questions are complex and expert opinions vary.

Many feminists and management theorists believe that workplace environments should be purged of sexuality. Corporate managers believe that a sexualized workplace leads to inefficiency, and feminists are concerned that sexuality at work perpetuates gender inequality. The California Supreme Court indicated its agreement with this proposition this summer. In Miller v. Department of Corrections, the Court held that employees who are forced to work in a sexually-charged environment can state a cause of action under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). The Court determined that a sexually-charged workplace may create an actionable hostile work environment if female employees receive the demeaning message that they are “sexual playthings” or that their employment is conditioned upon their willingness to engage in sexual conduct with their supervisors.

This year’s conference keynote speaker, Professor Vicki Schultz of Yale Law School, believes that the feminist focus on “sanitizing the workplace” has caused the purging of healthy sexual expression from work. In addition, she is concerned that the focus on sexuality has caused sex discrimination doctrine to veer away from women’s most pressing need: economic parity with men. Professor Schultz’s path-breaking articles, The Sanitized Workplace, 112 YALE LAW JOURNAL 2061 (2003), and Reconceptualizing Sexual Harassment, 107 YALE LAW JOURNAL 1683 (1998), have had a tremendous effect on the way that workplace harassment is perceived.

Professor Vicki Schultz is an expert in employment discrimination law, feminist jurisprudence, and the sociologies of work and gender. A member of the Yale Law School faculty since 1993, she was appointed Ford Foundation Professor Law in 2002. In 2000-2001, she was the Evelyn Green Davis Fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. In 2001, she taught as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School. Prior to joining the Yale faculty, Professor Schultz was a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin School of Law. She earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School, and was law clerk to U.S. District Judge Robert E. Keeton, and Senior U.S. District Judge Charles E. Wyzankski, Jr. After her clerkships and before beginning her academic career, she served as a trial attorney in the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division’s Employment Litigation Section.

Commentators on the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Lecture:

Ruben J. Garcia, Assistant Professor of Law, joined the faculty at California Western School of Law in 2003, after having taught at the University of California, Davis School of Law. Professor Garcia’s research focuses on labor and employment law, with particular attention to the effects of race, gender, immigration and globalization.

Zachary A. Kramer, Lecturer in Law and Charles R. Williams Project for Sexual Orientation Law Fellow at UCLA School of Law, writes in the areas of law and sexuality, employment discrimination, and family law.

Barbara A. Lawless, of the Law Offices of Lawless & Lawless, is a prominent plaintiff’s attorney who practices, writes and lectures in the areas of wrongful termination, employment discrimination, and sexual harassment law. She is currently an emeritus member of the Board of Consumer Attorneys of California and the former president of the San Francisco Trial Lawyers Association, Ms. Lawless represented Edna Miller in Miller v. Department of Corrections.

M. Isabel Medina, Ferris Family Professor of Law at Loyola University New Orleans School of Law and Visiting Professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, has explored the role of gender bias and gender stereotypes in her writings on hostile environment cases, immigration and citizenship law, and domestic violence.

Richard A. Paul , of Paul, Plevin, Sullivan & Connaughton LLP, has been a fixture among management employment lawyers for over 30 years, with a special emphasis on representing institutions of higher education. Mr. Paul is a frequent lecturer on employment law panels nationwide. He has been an adjunct professor at University of San Diego School of Law, teaching employment law, and a regular lecturer at the University of California, San Diego.

Christine Williams, Professor of Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin, conducts research focusing on gender and sexuality in the workplace. She is the author of two books about men and women who work in nontraditional (gender atypical) jobs. Her third book, Inside Toyland: Working, Shopping, and Inequality also focuses on gender and workplace discrimination issues. She has also studied sexuality and sexual harassment in a wide variety of workplace settings. Professor Williams is the editor of the journal, Gender and Society, the top rated journal in the sociology of gender.

Conference Co-Organizers:

Susan Bisom-Rapp

Julie Greenberg


The Center for Law and Social Justice

Thomas Jefferson School of Law is a State Bar of California approved MCLE provider. This program will qualify for Minimum Continuing Legal Education credit by The State Bar of California in the amount of three (3) hours.