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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Symmetry and the Design of Antidiscrimination Law

Bradley Areheart, Associate ProfessorCollege of Law
Antidiscrimination principles have been studied and written about for decades. Surprisingly, the question of how some laws protect symmetrically, while others protect asymmetrically, has received little attention. Even more surprising is the fact that legal scholars have not provided any systemic account of symmetry’s function in antidiscrimination law. Title VII, for example, makes it illegal to discriminate against both blacks and whites, against both men and women. In contrast, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act’s scope is asymmetrical in that it protects only those over the age of forty. This Article will propose symmetry as a new and unique way of thinking about the design of antidiscrimination laws. Symmetry is a design compromise, somewhere between the poles of particularism and universalism, in fashioning laws to prevent and rectify subordination.
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