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3L Caroline Hyatt Wins Second Place in National Writing Competition


Congratulations to third year law student Caroline Hyatt who placed second in the 2013-2014 Louis Jackson National Memorial Student Writing Competition in Labor and Employment Law for her paper, “The Legal Enforcement of 'Proper' Gender Performance Through Title VII.” 

The competition is sponsored by the national labor and employment law firm Jackson Lewis in memory of Mr. Jackson, one of the firm’s founders. The competition has been administered by IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law’s, Institute for Law and the Workplace.  Her essay will be published on the Institute for Law and the Workplace website and she will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

Hyatt, a native of Cincinnati, is a graduate of the university with a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs with certificates in Asian Studies and in International Human Rights.

What have been some of the best experiences at the law school and why?

“In the summer following my first year of law school, I worked at the EEOC in the Office of Federal Operations in Washington D.C. Federal employees with discrimination complaints go through a longer administrative process before they have the option of going to federal court and this office is responsible for the appellate decisions of these claims. About a month before I started working there, they issued an exciting decision in Macy v. Holder. This case established that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from discrimination based on gender identity. Following this monumental decision, the EEOC had a panel that summer to discuss the impact of the case that I got to attend. This discussion triggered the nagging question in the back of my mind that eventually led to my MA/JD final project.

“That fall I started researching the topic of employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and the extent to which it might be protected under Title VII with the help of my MA/JD final project committee, made up of Professors Deb Meem from Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Sandra Sperino and Chris Bryant from the law school. Working on that project, a paper that utilized the theoretical concepts that I learned in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies MA program and applying them to a legal problem in a new and unique way, made my 2L year the most challenging and rewarding year of my academic career. The work I did with the EEOC and on my paper also led me to the specialty I plan to practice in when I graduate: LGBT employment discrimination.”

How did you get involved with the writing competition?

“When I finished the paper I wrote for my MA/JD final project, I knew that I wanted to rewrite it in a form that focused on the legal aspect of my work so that I could get the ideas out there in the legal field. While there have been huge gains in protecting the LGBT community from employment discrimination, there is a lot of work still to be done, and my research can help ensure that that work creates real change instead of just the appearance of change or even reinforcing the very societal norms that we are trying to shift. Professor Sperino recommended places to submit my work and all of my committee helped me edit and prepare my paper. I submitted my paper to the writing competition this past January and was just so excited to find out that my paper, “The Legal Enforcement of “Proper” Gender Performance Through Title VII,” had won second place!”

How will this experience help in your career?

“The opportunity to become so deeply knowledgeable in one area of law through the work I did on my article, which I spent a whole year on, has helped me focus my experiences toward a specialty in LGBT employment discrimination. This area of law is new and changing and it’s exciting to be a part of it.

Participating specifically in the writing competition and in winning second place puts my work and my ideas out there on a much larger scale. It’s accessible online to anyone who wants to see it and I hope that it can contribute to a larger conversation, in legal academia and among practitioners, about the direction the law is moving.”

Last Question: what did you think when you heard you won?

“I was so excited! I didn’t know when to expect an answer, so I was completely caught off guard. It was a great feeling after working so hard on something for so long to have that work recognized on a national scale.”

Hyatt plans to work in employment discrimination, doing litigation on behalf of employees, and specializing in working to protect the LGBT community from discrimination.