Excerpted From: Ruqaiijah Yearby, Internalized Oppression: The Impact of Gender and Racial Bias in Employment on the Health Status of Women of Color, 49 Seton Hall Law Review 1037 (2019) (161 Footnotes) (Full Document)
Over the last two decades, research has shown that experiencing gender and racial bias is associated with increased rates of hypertension, non-adherence to medication, obesity, smoking, alcohol use, substance abuse, psychological distress, and depression in women of color. Yet, scholars are just beginning to study the influence of experiencing gender and racial bias in employment on women of color's health status. Gender and racial bias in employment is caused by actions on two different levels: institutional and interpersonal.
Bias on the institutional level operates through "neutral" organizational practices and policies that deny women of color equal pay. An example of institutional level bias in employment is the "neutral" decision to use salary history to determine wages, even though it results in women of color being paid less than White men who do the same work. Bias on the interpersonal level operates through individual interactions, where an individual's conscious and/or unconscious prejudice limits women of color's access to equal employment and pay. Interpersonal level bias in employment is illustrated by the use of race to decide whom to interview and hire, as well as an employee's pay rate. As a result of institutional and interpersonal bias in employment, there are gender and racial inequities in hiring and pay, which are not rectified by civil rights laws prohibiting employment discrimination because of gaps in the scope and application of these laws. Thus, the civil rights laws need to be changed to not only address these gaps, but also to provide relief to women of color for the physical and mental harms they suffer as a result of experiencing employment discrimination.
Using research studies, Part II of this Article examines the influence of experiencing gender and racial bias on women of color's health status.
Part III summarizes research studies and cases that document the continuation of institutional and interpersonal level gender and racial bias in employment that lead to gender and racial inequities in hiring and pay. Many research studies and cases fail to discuss both gender and racial bias, thus some of the discussion in this Article will focus on either gender or racial bias. Furthermore, many studies suggest that the persistence of gender and racial inequities in hiring and pay are a result of bias, but not all bias has been deemed discriminatory. Thus, the part also briefly reviews the difference between bias and discrimination currently prohibited by the law.
Part IV discusses the gaps in the scope and application of civil rights laws prohibiting employment discrimination that allow gender and racial inequities in hiring and pay to persist. Most civil rights laws focus on the individual economic harms caused by employment discrimination, ignoring the physical and mental harm suffered by women of color, who have experienced employment discrimination.
Part V proposes solutions to put an end to gender and racial bias in employment, and improve the health status of women of color who have experienced employment discrimination.
[. . .]
Adopting all of the solutions discussed above would not only begin to close the gaps in Title VII and the EPA, but it would also begin to improve women of color's health status. None of these recommendations, however, will put an end to sex and race discrimination in employment, unless employers also begin to value the contributions of women of color.
Professor of Law and Member of the Center for Health Law Studies, Saint Louis University, School of Law, B.S. (Honors Biology), University of Michigan; J.D., Georgetown University Law Center; M.P.H., Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.