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Once a contractual relationship of employment is established, the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e et seq., attach and govern certain aspects of that relationship. In the context of Title VII, the contract of employment may be written or oral, formal or informal. The contractual relationship of employment triggers the provision of Title VII governing terms, conditions, or privileges of employment.
Petitioner Elizabeth Anderson Hishon accepted a position with the law partnership, King & Spalding. Hishon alleged that King & Spalding’s promised to consider her on a fair and equal basis created a binding employment contract. King & Spalding considered and rejected Hishon for admission to the partnership. Petitioner filed an action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e et seq., claiming that the firm had discriminated against her on the basis of sex. The district court dismissed the complaint on the ground that Title VII was inapplicable to the selection of partners. The court of appeals affirmed.
Did the complaint that a law partnership discriminated against a woman attorney employed as associate when it failed to invite her to become partner state a claim cognizable under Title VII?
The Court stated that if the evidence at trial established that the parties contracted to have Hishon considered for partnership, that promise clearly was a term, condition, or privilege of her employment, and Title VII bound King & Spalding to consider Hishon for partnership without regard to her sex. Therefore, the Court concluded that Hishon’s complaint stated a claim cognizable under Title VII.