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The Legal and Policy Implications of the “Flexibility Stigma”


Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Stephanie Bornstein, Visiting Assistant Professor, University of California, Hastings College of the Law, 200 McAllister Street, San Francisco, CA  94102. Tel: (415) 581-8815 [e-mail:].


American workplace law prohibits employment decisions based on gender stereotypes and forbids retaliation against employees who take certain job-protected family leaves. Yet the studies in this Issue documenting the “flexibility stigma” indicate popular perceptions and attitudes that run counter to these legal proscriptions. Three key aspects of the flexibility stigma as documented suggest legal and policy implications. First, because the flexibility stigma is rooted in gender stereotypes, its effects may be litigable under federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in employment. Second, workplace policies that provide leave or flexible scheduling must also recognize and address bias against those who use them or the policies risk being undermined by workers engaging in bias avoidance. Third, the flexibility stigma operates in workplaces across the class spectrum, indicating a greater urgency for public policy to counteract its effects.