Table of Contents

Research Handbook on the Economics of Labor and Employment Law

Research Handbook on the Economics of Labor and Employment Law

Research Handbooks in Law and Economics series

Edited by Cynthia L. Estlund and Michael L. Wachter

This Research Handbook assembles the original work of leading legal and economic scholars, working in a variety of traditions and methodologies, on the economic analysis of labor and employment law. In addition to surveying the current state of the art on the economics of labor markets and employment relations, the volume’s 16 chapters assess aspects of traditional labor law and union organizing, the law governing the employment contract and termination of employment, employment discrimination and other employer mandates, restrictions on employee mobility, and the forum and remedies for labor and employment claims.

Chapter 9: Bias and the law of the workplace

Christine Jolls

Subjects: economics and finance, labour economics, law and economics, law - academic, law and economics


Shortly after noon on July 16, 2009, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., a well-known African- American professor at Harvard University, was arrested at his home after a verbal confrontation with a Cambridge police officer who was investigating a call about a possible burglary. Gates returned home from a trip to China to find the front door to his home jammed. With help from his driver, Gates forced the door open and entered the house. After neighbor Lucia Whalen called the Cambridge police to report that two men may have been breaking into the house, Sergeant James Crowley and several other Cambridge police officers arrived on the scene. The key details of what occurred next differ between Crowley and Gates. Crowley reported that Gates was aggressive, yelling very loudly, threatening Crowley repeatedly, and refusing to follow Crowley’s instruction that Gates step outside. Gates’s account of the incident indicated that Crowley repeatedly refused to provide his name and badge number upon Gates’s request (Olopade 2009). What is certain is that the incident ended with the arrest of the fifty-eight-year-old professor for disorderly conduct. Would a hypothetical fifty-eight-year-old white man in Gates’s situation have been asked to step outside upon the police’s arrival at the house?

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