In the United States, enforcement of laws prohibiting workplace discrimination rests almost entirely on the shoulders of employee victims, who must first file charges with a government agency and then pursue litigation themselves. While the law forbids retaliation against employees who complain, this does little to prevent it, in part because employees are also responsible for initiating any claims of retaliation they experience as a result of their original discrimination claims. The burden on employees to complain—and their justified fear of retaliation if they do so—results in underenforcement of the law and a failure to spot and redress underlying structural causes of race and sex discrimination at work. By statutory design, government enforcement agencies play a crucial but limited role in litigating discrimination lawsuits, which makes significant expansion of the agencies’ roles politically infeasible.
This Article considers compelled disclosure of employer information as a means of better enforcing antidiscrimination law. Information-forcing mechanisms have long been a part of securities law. The recent #MeToo and Time’s Up social movements have brought the power of public exposure to the issues of sexual harassment and pay discrimination at work. Drawing on lessons from both contexts, this Article argues for imposing affirmative public disclosure requirements on employers that track the pay, promotion, and harassment of employees by their sex and race. It documents emerging disclosure models in some state and international laws meant to target workplace discrimination and highlights where existing U.S. federal law opens the door to such an approach. It also considers counterarguments raised by compelled disclosure, including privacy and free speech concerns. Requiring public disclosures on equality measures is an incremental yet important untapped mechanism that can shift some of the enforcement burden for U.S. antidiscrimination law off of employees and onto employers and responsible government agencies.
Stephanie Bornstein, Disclosing Discrimination, 101 B.U. L. Rev. 287 (2021).