Citation. Hishon v. King & Spalding, 467 U.S. 69, 104 S. Ct. 2229, 81 L. Ed. 2d 59, 1984 U.S. LEXIS 7, 52 U.S.L.W. 4627, 34 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1406, 34 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P34,387 (U.S. May 22, 1984)
Brief Fact Summary. Petitioner alleges that her failure to be promoted to partner at Defendant law firm was due to her gender, and has brought suit under Title VII. The lower court held that Title VII doesn’t apply to law partnerships; she appeals.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Title VII prohibits discrimination by employers in the context of any contractual employer/employee relationship, including law partnerships.
Held. No. Reversed.
Title VII applies to all contractual employment situations. The promise of consideration for partner status was clearly one of the strongest factors inducing Petitioner to accept an associateship with Defendant, and should be considered one of the “privileges” delineated in Title VII.
There is nothing in the text or procedural history of Title VII to suggest that Congress ever intended to exempt partnership decisions from its protections.
Concurrence. Powell: Agrees with reasoning, but does not believe that Title VII should be explicitly extended to the management of a law firm by its partners, as law partners manage their associates via an entirely differently relationship from the usual employer/employee structure.
Discussion. Despite this holding, many courts have been reluctant to review partnership decisions as a practical matter.