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Dothard v. Rawlinson

433 U.S. 321 (1977)

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Dothard v. Rawlinson

United States Supreme Court

433 U.S. 321 (1977)

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Facts

Dianne Rawlinson (plaintiff), a 22-year-old woman with college training in correctional psychology, applied for a position as a correctional-counselor trainee in Alabama. Correctional counselors’ primary duty was to maintain security and control over inmates through constant supervision and observation. An Alabama statute required that state correctional-facility employees maintain a minimum weight of 120 pounds and have a minimum height of 5 feet 2 inches. Rawlinson was denied employment because she did not meet the statutory minimum-weight requirement. She sued the Alabama Board of Corrections (the State) and E.C. Dothard, Director of the Alabama Department of Public Safety (defendants), under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging that the statutory height and weight requirements, though facially neutral, functionally operated to disproportionately exclude women from employment in the State’s correctional facilities. After Rawlinson filed her action, the Alabama Board of Corrections adopted Administrative Regulation 204, which provided among other things that a correctional counselor could not be assigned to a contact position (i.e., positions requiring close physical proximity to inmates) in a maximum-security prison that housed inmates of the opposite sex. The maximum-security prisons were notoriously violent and unsafe, and inmates were not classified or segregated according to their level of dangerousness or the crime of which they had been convicted. Roughly 20 percent of the inmates in male maximum-security prisons were sex offenders. After the adoption of Regulation 204, Rawlinson amended her suit to challenge the regulation under Title VII and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The district court found that when combined, Alabama’s statutory height and weight requirements would exclude 41.13 percent of the United States’ female population but less than 1 percent of its male population. The district court also found that even if female applicants met the statutory height and weight requirements, Regulation 204 meant that the female applicants could compete equally with male applicants for only 25 percent of the available correctional-counselor positions in Alabama's prison system. A three-judge panel of the district court concluded that Rawlinson made a prima facie showing of unlawful sex discrimination, which the State did not sufficiently rebut. The State appealed directly to the United States Supreme Court, arguing among other things that a prima facie case of disparate impact could not be based on generalized national statistics and that Regulation 204 was permissible because sex was a bona fide occupational qualification that was reasonably necessary for the normal operation of the prisons.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Stewart, J.)

Concurrence (Rehnquist, J.)

Dissent (White, J.)

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