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A reallocation of rights in industries with reproductive health hazards

  • Author(s): Robinson, James C
  • Giacomini, Mita K
  • et al.
Abstract

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in United Automobile Workers versus Johnson Controls prohibits hiring policies that exclude fertile women from industries posing reproductive health risks to workers and fetuses. Many toxic substances that threaten the developing fetus also pose risks to adult male and female workers. Exclusionary employment policies are socially undesirable for the following reasons: they may lead to worse reproductive outcomes if the indirect effects of lower wages and less adequate health insurance in the alternative available jobs are considered. Second, the effect of such policies could damage the individual woman's overall well-being through its economic impact and her potential loss in autonomy. Third, occupational segregation into less hazardous but lower-paying jobs reinforces gender stereotypes that are restrictive to women. The Supreme Court ruling in the Johnson Controls case reaffirms the importance of the Civil Rights Act as both a shield against unfair treatment for individual women and a commitment to eradicate sexist attitudes and economic inequality throughout society.

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