Defenders of special protective labor legislation for women often maintain that eliminating such laws would destroy the fruits of a century-long struggle for the protection of women workers. Even a brief examination of the historic practice of courts and employers would show that the fruit of such laws has been bitter: they are, in practice, more of a curse than a blessing.
Sex-defined protective laws have often been based on stereotypical assumptions concerning women’s needs and abilities and employers have frequently used them as legal excuses for discriminating against women. After the Second World War, for example, businesses and government sought to persuade women to vacate jobs in factories, thus making room in the labor force for returning veterans. The revival or passage of state laws limiting the daily or weekly work hours of women conveniently accomplished this. Employers had only to declare that overtime hours were a necessary condition of employment or promotion in their factory, and women could be quite legally fired, refused jobs, or kept at low wage levels, all in the name of “protecting” their health. By validating such laws when they are challenged by lawsuits, the courts have colluded over the years in establishing different, less advantageous employment terms for women than for men, thus reducing women’s competitiveness on the job market. At the same time, even the most well-intentioned lawmakers, courts, and employers have often been blind to the real needs of women. The lawmakers and the courts continue to permit employers to offer employee health insurance plans that cover all known human medical disabilities except those relating to pregnancy and childbirth.
Finally, labor laws protecting only special groups are often ineffective at protecting the workers who are actually in the workplace. Some chemicals, for example, pose reproductive risks for women of childbearing years: manufacturers using the chemicals comply with laws protecting women against these hazards by refusing to hire them. Thus the sex-defined legislation protects the hypothetical female worker, but has no effect whatever on the safety of any actual employee. The health risks to male employees in such industries cannot be negligible, since chemicals toxic enough to cause birth defects in fetuses or sterility in women are presumably harmful to the human metabolism. Protective laws aimed at changing production materials or techniques in order to reduce such hazards would benefit all employees without discriminating against any.
In sum, protective labor laws for women are discriminatory and do not meet their intended purpose. Legislators should recognize that women are in the work force to stay and that their needs — good health care, a decent wage, and a safe workplace — are the needs of all workers. Laws that ignore these facts violate women’s rights for equal protection in employment.
1. According to the author, which of the following resulted from the passage or revival of state laws limiting the work hours of women workers?
[A] Women workers were compelled to leave their jobs in factories.
[B] Many employers had difficulty in providing jobs for returning veterans.
[C] Many employers found it hard to attract women workers.
[D] The health of most women factory workers improved.
2. The author places the word “protecting” in quotation marks in line 9, paragraph 2 most likely in order to suggest that
[A] she is quoting the actual wording of the laws in question.
[B] the protective nature of the laws in question should not be overlooked.
[C] protecting the health of workers is important to those who support protective labor laws.
[D] the laws in question were really used to the detriment of women workers, despite being overtly protective in intent.
3. The text suggests that which of the following is a shortcoming of protective labor laws that single out a particular group of workers for protection?
[A] Such laws are often too weak to be effective at protecting the group in question.
[B] Such laws are usually drafted by legislators who do not have the best interests of workers at heart.
[C] Such laws exert no pressure on employers to eliminate hazards in the workplace.
[D] Compliance with such laws is often costly for employers and provokes lawsuits by employees claiming discrimination.
4. According to the first paragraph of the text, the author considers which of the following to be most helpful in determining the value of special protective labor legislation for women?
[A] A comparative study of patterns of work-related illnesses in states that had such laws and in states that did not.
[B] An estimate of how many women workers are in favor of such laws.
[C] An analysis of the cost to employers of complying with such laws.
[D] A study of the actual effects that such laws have had in the past on women workers.
5. The author implies that which of the following is characteristic of many employee health insurance plans?
[A] They cover all the common medical conditions affecting men, but only some of those affecting women.
[B] They lack the special provisions for women workers that proposed special labor laws for women would provide.
[C] They pay the medical costs associated with pregnancy and childbirth only for the spouses of male employees, not for female employees.
[D] They meet minimum legal requirements, but do not adequately safeguard the health of either male or female employees.
【考点解析】这是一道指代词题型。考生可根据题干中的“the passage or revival of state laws limiting the work hours of women workers”将本题迅速定位在第二段的第三句，该句中的指代词“this”暗示本题的正确答案应该在第二段的第二句。这样就可以找出本题的正确答案A。考生在解题时一定要注意指代词。
【考点解析】本题是一道归纳推导题型。考生可根据题干中的“protective labor laws that single out a particular group of workers for protection”将本题的答案信息迅速确定在第三段的第一句，从第三段的内容(尤其是第三段的首尾两句)判断本题的正确答案应该是C。考生在解题时首先要具备审题定位的能力，然后要善于归纳和总结段落的细节信息。
【考点解析】这是一道细节推导题。根据本题题干中的“employee health insurance plans”可将本题的答案信息来源迅速确定在第二段的尾句，从第二段尾句的内容可判断本题的正确答案应该是A。考生在解题时一定要把审题定位放在第一位。