Engaging the Social Sciences

Program explores how social science experts address gender discrimination cases
Engaging the Social Sciences
Friday, December 10, 2010

How can the social sciences be used effectively in class action Title VII discrimination cases?

This was the question today when ILR's Labor and Employment Law Program in New York City assembled a panel of Cornell faculty from different disciplines. The event was held in ILR's New York City Conference Center.

"Social Science Experts and Title VII Class Action Suits: Getting the Evidence in a Discrimination Case" explored how different social science experts address these kinds of cases, where to find a social science expert and how to work with them successfully in presenting a case.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Professors Beth Livingston, Lisa Nishii and Brian Rubineau, and Senior Lecturer Elizabeth Karns outlined their respective disciplines -- social psychology, industrial and organizational psychology, sociology and social statistics. Each applied perspective to three gender discrimination cases related to hiring, occupational segregation and pay inequity.

In one example of a job qualification test in which women consistently scored lower than men, industrial and organizational psychologist Nishii focused on the need to assess whether the test was a true predictor of job performance. Karns, an epidemiologist and attorney, was concerned with how test results would compare to external data from similar exercises.

Conference moderator Adam Klein, partner in the law firm Outten & Golden LLP -- conference co-sponsor -- observed that few continuing legal education programs (CLEs) expose lawyers to subject matter experts as does ILR’s Labor and Employment Law Program.

Program Director Esta R. Bigler '70 stated that one of the founding principles of the program was to "bring the Ithaca campus to New York City and to bring scholars and practitioners together to benefit both."

Cornell ILR's Labor and Employment Law Program offers legal professionals multi-disciplinary historical, sociological, economic and political perspectives on legal issues in the workplace.