The Center for WorkLife Law is a research and advocacy organization at UC Hastings College of the Law that seeks to advance gender and racial equity in the workplace and in higher education. WorkLife Law focuses on initiatives that can produce concrete social, legal, and institutional change within three to five years.
Our current major initiatives include programs for advancing women leaders, eliminating barriers for pregnant and breastfeeding workers and students, preventing Family Responsibilities Discrimination, and helping companies prevent or interrupt bias in the workplace and create more stable schedules for hourly workers.
We use a unique approach to solve complex problems:
1. Start from a comprehensive research base
- Gender bias against mothers. In 2001-2003, we brought together social scientists who documented that bias against mothers –virtually unstudied before then — in fact is the strongest form of gender bias.
- A new approach to implicit bias. We organized hundreds of studies into four easily recognizable patterns of gender bias to show how implicit bias emerges in everyday workplace interactions.
- Documenting the experience of hourly workers. Our groundbreaking 2004-2010 studies documented how work-family conflict affects hourly workers, and our 2015-2017 Stable Scheduling Study examines how companies can do better for their employees and their bottom line.
- Documenting the flexibility stigma. In 2005-2008, we brought together social scientists who documented that the career detriments typically suffered by employees who use workplace flexibility policies stem from gender bias — raising the specter of legal liability, which gives employers a new incentive to get serious about culture change.
- The work continues. We are currently engaged in research around the experiences of early career researchers, women in STEM, and the legal profession.
2. Develop evidence-based solutions
- Model university policies (2012, 2016). We have developed a model pregnancy and parenting policy to protect students and provide leave, which was used as a template by universities nationwide. We have also created a comprehensive list of best practices for retaining women faculty and established the costs of not doing so.
- Model state statute (2005-2012). We have developed a model statute to add caregiver status to state employment discrimination statutes, and have worked with advocates throughout the country to generate interest in passing such a statute, which was passed in California in 2007 but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
- Compensation systems that control for bias (2011). In a report that reverberated through the legal profession, WorkLife Law documented the impact of law-firm compensation systems among women and set forth best practices to control for bias, such as implementing our 2008 performance evaluation manual.
- New legal theories (2004-2007). Our innovative legal theories founded a new area of law: “family responsibilities discrimination,” (FRD) which gives new legal rights to employees discriminated against due to caregiving responsibilities.
- Best-practice part-time policies (1999-2000). Our Project for Attorney Retention (PAR) invented the modern law-firm part-time policy. PAR’s best practices have spread to law firms through the country. Our proposal for a part-time tenure track has been adopted in universities throughout the country.
3. Partner with diverse stakeholders to test, adjust, and improve ideas in a real-world setting
WorkLife Law works with a variety of stakeholders, reflecting our belief that many different parties have a role to play in social and organizational change around work-life issues. For instance, WorkLife Law works with employers to identify and prevent discriminatory practices, assists employees who may be experiencing pregnancy discrimination or caregiver discrimination at work, operates a Family Responsibilities Discrimination Hotline for both employers and employees, and provides technical guidance to state and federal policymakers who seek to develop public policies to prevent caregiver discrimination.