In Episode 2, Season 1 of the popular Disney + series “She Hulk: Attorney-At-Law,” our hero, Jennifer Walters, is terminated from her job as an Assistant District Attorney after she is infected with gamma radiation and develops the powers of a Hulk. The DA’s Office’s rationale for Jenn’s termination is a shaky one–a case where Walters is lead counsel is declared a mistrial after she saves the jurors from a super-villain and the judge decides they will be biased in her favor. After she is canned by the DA, she applies for numerous positions at private law firms, only to be rejected time and time again.
The obvious question is–why? Walters is a great lawyer and, beyond that, is beloved as a super-hero by the community. So, why are her prospects so slim? Is she the victim of employment discrimination?
Legally speaking, the answer may be yes. Two laws are at stake here.
First is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination on the “based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” Jenn Walters is the only green member of the bar, and she can’t get a job despite her immense qualifications. While there is little precedent for a case of discrimination on the basis of such a non-traditional color, She-Hulk presents a strong case–it wasn’t until she turned green that her prospects for employment narrowed.
As employment discrimination attorneys, we would also consider whether there was discrimination on the basis of sex here. Women are still under-represented in the legal profession. If Jenn Walters came to our office, we would ask questions such as: have there been any male ADA’s whose cases have resulted in mistrials? Were they summarily dismissed from the job? Would you terminate Captain America, Iron Man, or a male superhero on the basis that jurors just liked them too much? To terminate one of your few female attorneys, on such dubious grounds, is inherently suspicious.
The second law applicable here is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employment discrimination against any “qualified person with a disability.”
A “disability” is defined by the law as a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities or major bodily functions. It would seem at first blush that a superhuman, whose physical abilities are enhanced, rather than limited, would not qualify under the law. However, we must dig deeper into the statute.
“Major life activities” under the law include: “caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, and working.”
“Major bodily functions” under the law include: “functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine, and reproductive functions.”
“Normal cell growth” is an obvious one here, as the gamma radiation to which the Hulks were exposed causes their cells to grow massively and suddenly in size–hardly “normal.”
Beyond that, however, we have to consider the negative side effects of Hulking out. In addition to creating super-strength, the Hulk transformation can cause negative side effects, include sudden mood changes and physical pain. In other words, the experience of becoming a Hulk is a physically and mentally challenging one. (For more, see “10 Harsh Realities of Being the Hulk.”)
According to Science World, exposure to gamma radiation–the source of the Hulks’ power–causes numerous side effects, including “mak[ing] people sick with headaches, fatigue or nausea. It can also cause skin reddening and destroy bone marrow cells and the cells lining the gut.”
In a nutshell, She-Hulk has numerous valid claims for employment discrimination. If she contacted our office regarding her legal rights, we would certainly look at her case closely, and we would be glad to have her as a client.
If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy Is Matt Murdock an Ethical Lawyer?