Breakdown of a Brief: Sex Discrimination Has No Place in Any Workplace

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March 1, 2022

As part of our work defending the legal rights of women and girls, Legal Momentum leads, and joins, several amicus briefs throughout the year. Amicus curiae, or friend of the court, briefs are a vitally important tool to share our unique expertise and to provide courts with relevant information to inform their decision-making in key cases. Here’s an update on our work on the Jane Roe v. United States et al case and why it matters.

Breakdown of a Brief: Sex Discrimination Has No Place in Any Workplace

Oral argument in the Jane Roe v United States, et al case will take place tomorrow, March 2nd 2022. In August 2021, Legal Momentum co-led an amicus brief in support of Appellant Jane Roe, a former federal assistant public defender, who was subjected to severe sexual harassment and denied Constitutional protections to address it. Here’s an update on the background of the case, a breakdown of the brief’s main argument, and why the ruling matters for the 30,000 employees of the U.S. Federal Judiciary.

The full brief can be found here.

Background on the Case:

  • Jane Roe faced extreme sex discrimination, including obsessive sexual harassment from her direct supervisor, between early 2018 and March 2019, while working for the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Roe reported her harassment through the Fourth Circuit’s internal mechanisms, but was repeatedly stonewalled and denied her right to due process and basic equal protection rights.
  • During this process, Roe was forced out of her dream job. Her work responsibilities were significantly reduced, she was denied a guaranteed promotion, and she was subjected to retaliation and harassment from coworkers and supervisors.
  • The Federal Judiciary is exempt from the Title VII workplace protections applied to other employers.
  • The Federal Judiciary has long acknowledged its history of sex discrimination, including sexual harassment, but has done nothing meaningful to resolve the problem.

Main Argument of the Brief:

  • Federal Judiciary employees are entitled to the Constitutional guarantee of the right to work in an environment free from sexual harassment and other workplace discrimination.
  • The Federal Judiciary should be held to the same standards as other employers when responding to employee reports of harassment and discrimination. 

Why the Ruling Matters:

  • If the lower court ruling is upheld, it would signify that the Federal Judiciary is above the law and not required to abide by the kinds of antidiscrimination laws applied to other employers.
  • Institutions, including the Federal Judiciary, cannot, and should not, police themselves
    • After Congress faced similar issues with sex discrimination and harassment in its workplace, in 2018 it finally adopted the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995.
    • Last year Congress introduced the similar Judiciary Accountability Act of 2021, but the Federal Judiciary continues to resist it.
    • Regardless of whether this legislation becomes law, the Court’s ruling in Roe v United States needs to make clear that Federal Judiciary employees are entitled to employment protection under the U.S. Constitution.

Sex discrimination and harassment have no place in any workplace, including in the U.S. Federal Judiciary. As stated by 70 former federal law clerks “there is ‘no justification for a system in which antidiscrimination law applies to all those except those who interpret and enforce it.’

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