Akron Law student co-authors legal article with professor on Supreme Court case06/01/2020
This spring University of Akron (UA) School of Law third-year student Morgan Schweighoefer joined the exclusive circle of law students who have co-authored a legal article with a UA professor. The Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA) semiannual newsletter Labor and Employment News recently accepted an article by Schweighoefer and Akron Law Visiting Professor Rick Bales for publication in its fall 2020 issue. The article, “Employment Protection for Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” describes the current status and potential development of sexual orientation and gender identity anti-discrimination laws at the federal, state and local levels.
Bales is a prolific writer, having published more than 80 scholarly articles and authored or co-authored five books. Last fall he was in the process of writing an article for the OSBA newsletter on artificial intelligence in the workplace when it occurred to him that the newsletter would likely be interested in the topic of legal protection for sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace as well.
The U.S. Supreme Court had just granted certiorari in two cases likely to resolve the split of authority in the federal circuit courts on whether Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Supreme Court decisions, expected to be released soon, will impact millions of LGBTQ workers and employers across the country.
“I knew that there is no state-level protection in Ohio for LGBTQ folks,” Bales said. “But there is a patchwork of cities and counties throughout Ohio that each have a little bit different type of protection. I thought it would be interesting to write about both the Supreme Court cases and the protection that is there in these cities and counties.
“When the editors said they were interested, I let the law school’s Office of Career Services know I was looking for a student to help me put the article together and they recommended Morgan. She looked like the perfect candidate.”
“Career Services knew that labor and employment are my primary areas of interest, so they connected the two of us,” Schweighoefer said. “We met in the fall and talked about what he was looking to do.
“It was admittedly a little terrifying. Professor Bales is great, and I've enjoyed my legal writing courses, but I'm not on law review and I don't have any background in this type of writing. So it was exciting for me to be able to learn about it through writing this article.”
“She did all the research on what the county and municipal protections are in Ohio and wrote the first draft of the article,” Bales said. “We went back and forth until we were happy with it and sent it to the OSBA in early March. She was terrific. It was a great experience working with her.”
As a result of the COVID-19 disruption, the two did not hear back from the newsletter until a couple weeks ago. The editors accepted the article with just a few minor edits but decided to hold it until the fall issue so it could be updated to reflect the Supreme Court decisions.
“I was aware of the anti-discrimination laws issue and I knew a lot of municipalities had created ordinances, but I didn't realize the magnitude of it,” said Schweighoefer. “It was interesting to see which communities around here and in Southern Ohio and Central Ohio have enacted something and the way that they phrased it. The sexual orientation aspect is something employers are aware of, but most haven't really addressed gender identity. People need to start preparing one way or the other because this is something that they're going to have to make decisions on.”
Schweighoefer is on track to graduate in December, so she will still be a student when the article is published. She hopes she will be practicing labor and employment law at this time next year, after she graduates and passes the February bar exam.
Right now she works part-time as a law clerk for Bridgestone Americas in Akron, primarily dealing with labor and employment issues. She also has been a full-time executive assistant to the mayor of Twinsburg but was one of about three dozen employees laid off recently as a result of the pandemic’s impact on the city’s finances.
“Between the two positions, one in the public sector, one in private sector, I've definitely been able to see how different types of employers are treating this issue as we get closer to a Supreme Court ruling,” Schweighoefer said.