Price Waterhouse is primarily known for its addressing of sex stereotyping. The word “stereotype” appears ten times in the various opinions of Price Waterhouse , but the Court did not clarify what kind of stereotype-influenced behavior and workplace environment is illegal. The Court had in the record extensive expert testimony from Dr. Susan Fiske about stereotyping, but it dismissed that testimony as mere “icing on the cake” and it was not integral to the holding. The Court concluded summarily that partners reacted “negatively to [Hopkins’s] personality because she is a woman.” It alluded to the “possible ways of proving that stereotyping played a motivating role in an employment decision.” But, it expressly declined to decide “which specific facts, ‘standing alone,’ would or would not establish a plaintiff’s case.” The Court’s failure to provide a framework for evaluating stereotyping led lower courts to become entangled over whether, for example, a statement by an employer is just an innocuous “stray remark” or evidence of illegal bias. Other courts also have become preoccupied with the status of the speaker of the comment and who, if anyone, heard or paid attention to it. As Chamallas points out, this confusion undercuts the progressive holding of Price Waterhouse and makes what could have been a ground-breaking decision on women’s rights a paper tiger. Twenty-six years after Price Waterhouse, women still earn less and have a lower status in the workplace, even controlling for factors such as qualifications, personal preferences, job responsibilities, occupation type, and industry.
Dale Margolin Cecka, Commentary for Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins in Feminist Judgments: Rewritten Opinions of the United States Supreme Court 341 (Kathryn Stanchi, et al., eds., 2016).