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Clauss might be retired, but she’s not done teaching

By: JESSICA STEPHEN//June 21, 2012//

Clauss might be retired, but she’s not done teaching

By: JESSICA STEPHEN//June 21, 2012//

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Carin Clauss, University of Wisconsin Law School

Law degree received from: Columbia Law School, 1963

Staff photo by Kevin Harnack

When protestors swarmed Madison over collective bargaining, Carin Clauss didn’t see a political opportunity. She saw a chance to teach.

“I felt it was very important for people to understand what was happening,” said Clauss, professor emerita with the University of Wisconsin Law School.

So, decades after she led federal employment litigation and two years after retiring from teaching law, Clauss organized two teach-ins, offering an academic spin on the sit-ins of the Civil Rights era.

“I just wanted to make sure we had an informed electorate without aggressively taking partisan sides, just to make sure people had accurate information,” Clauss said.

The effort was no surprise to colleague Alta Charo.

“She has a boundless energy for service,” said Charo, professor of law and bio ethics and associate dean of academics and law.

She’s also a pioneer.

Of the 320 who graduated in Clauss’ law school class, only a half-dozen were women. When Clauss went looking for work on Wall Street, she found firms unsure about hiring women.

“The one thing they were certain about was they didn’t want a woman litigator,” Clauss said. “And, by that time, I had been totally bitten by the litigation bug. I was told the government had a different attitude.”

In 1977, Clauss became the federal government’s solicitor of labor, making her the first woman general counsel in a cabinet agency and, essentially, third in command within the Labor Department.

She briefed and argued equal pay legislation, taking on 35 cases that built the framework for financial equality in the workplace. Clauss also established collective bargaining within the government, working on an executive order from President Lyndon B. Johnson.

“Wisconsin was an exception,” Clauss said. “They had bargaining rights, but in the South many states did not.”

That’s why, she said, “It sort of fascinates me that 50 years later I’m looking at a state looking at repealing part of its equal pay law and stripping collective bargaining.”

Offering insight on the matters is nothing political, she said. It’s just what she can do.

“After all, I am a retired person,” she said with a laugh. “I’m not as active as I used to be.”


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