LAUREN EDELMAN. Symbolic Compliance and Judicial Inference in Federal EEO Cases: How "Best Practices" Win and Employees Lose

Blumer Room - 402 Barrows Hall

I will first review findings from a recent article published in AJS, which offers a theoretical and empirical analysis of legal endogeneity— a powerful process through which institutionalized organizational structures influence judicial conceptions of compliance with antidiscrimination law. This article uses a content analysis of opinions from a sample of 1024  federal civil rights opinions from 1965 through 1999 to show that judges increasingly defer to institutionalized organizational structures, ultimately inferring nondiscrimination from their mere presence.  I will then discuss new findings from a follow-up analysis, which shows how judicial deference to institutionalized employment structures affects the outcomes of employment discrimination cases.

Lauren B. Edelman is Associate Dean for Jurisprudence and Social Policy, Agnes Roddy Robb Professor of Law, and Professor of Sociology at the University of California-Berkeley.  Her research addresses the intersection of law and organizations, focusing on how organizations both respond to and shape the meaning of law. She is currently writing a book titled: Working Law: How Managers Transform Civil Rights in the American Workplace.