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Sex-bias case ruled valid against Atlanta law firm

The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Tuesday that law firms, and perhaps other professional partnerships, may be found guilty of unlawful sex bias for refusing to name a woman as a partner.

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In a 9-to-0 ruling in a case watched closely by women's rights groups, the court said Elizabeth Anderson Hishon is entitled to a trial in her sex discrimination lawsuit against the Atlanta law firm of former Attorney General Griffin B. Bell.

The court rejected arguments by the the firm of King & Spalding that a federal law banning sex discrimination in employment should not apply to partnership decisions.

While the ruling applied directly to law firm partnerships, the rationale of Chief Justice Warren Burger's opinion appeared to apply as well to other professions, such as accounting, architecture, and medicine, where partnerships are common.

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