Noah Zatz

Professor of Law

Noah Zatz’s interests include employment & labor law, welfare law and antipoverty policy, critical race & feminist theory, and liberal political theory.  His writing and teaching address how work structures both inequality and social citizenship in the modern welfare state. Zatz’s primary focus is on which activities become recognized and protected as “work,” how work is defined in relationship to markets, and how the boundaries of markets are themselves mediated by gender and race, among other things. His published scholarship engages these questions by studying the legal concepts of “work” in welfare work requirements and “employment” in labor & employment law, especially with regard to the status of family caretaking, prison labor, workfare, sex work, and court-ordered employment or work programs.

Another major interest is how antidiscrimination law, and employment law more generally, address labor market inequality that is jointly produced by workers’ interactions with employers, coworkers, and actors outside the workplace. His recent work in this vein analyzes the theoretical basis for the “disparate impact” claim of discrimination, with an emphasis on the significance of intra-group differences and the importance they take on in contexts such as racial exclusion based on criminal records.

As a teacher, Zatz is committed to training public interest lawyers and to engaging students with law’s possibilities both as an instrument of injustice and as a contributor to emancipatory social change. To these ends and others, Zatz is a core faculty member in UCLA’s Critical Race Studies and Epstein Public Interest Law & Policy programs.

Before entering law teaching, Zatz was awarded a Skadden Fellowship to work at the National Employment Law Project (NELP) in New York City. As a NELP staff attorney, he represented low-income individuals and community organizations in matters at the interface between the low-wage workplace and the welfare system. After law school, Zatz clerked for Judge Kimba M. Wood of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, and for Judge Guido Calabresi of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. He also has been a fellow at Princeton University’s Program in Law and Public Affairs, a visiting fellow at the University of New Mexico School of Law and a visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School and at Yale Law School.

Zatz’s current research explores “Get To Work or Go To Jail” schemes in which workers face incarceration for being unemployed or underemployed while under state supervision through systems such as probation or parole, child support enforcement, and collection of criminal justice debt. This project shows how precarious and exploited work is produced through active state construction of labor markets, not just through deregulation, and how the racial & economic stratification of contemporary criminal justice systems produces labor subordination, not only exclusion from employment. During the 2017-18 academic year, Zatz held an Open Society Fellowship to develop this project.


  • A.B. Cornell University, 1994
  • M.A. Cornell University, 1996
  • J.D. Yale, 1999

Articles, Chapters & Reports

  • The Carceral Labor Continuum: Beyond the Prison Labor/Free Labor Divide, in Labor and Punishment: Work In and Out of Prison (edited by Erin Hatton, University of California Press, forthcoming 2021). Full Text
  • A Law and Political Economy Approach to Race, Gender, and Power in Contracts, in Integrating Doctrine and Diversity: Inclusion & Equity in the Law School Classroom (edited by Nicole P. Dyszlewski, Raquel J. Gabriel, Suzanne Harrington-Steppen, Anna Russell & Genevieve B. Tung, Carolina Academic Press, forthcoming 2021).
  • Better Than Jail: Social Policy in the Shadow of Racialized Mass Incarceration, 1 Journal of Law & Political Economy 212 (2021). Full Text
  • “Any Alternative Is Great If I’m Incarcerated:” A Case Study of Court-Ordered Community Service in Los Angeles County (with Melanie Sonsteng-Person (lead author), Lucero Herrera & Tia Koonse), 48 Criminal Justice and Behavior 32 (2021). Full Text
  • Get To Work or Go To Jail: State Violence and the Racialized Production of Precarious Work, 45 Law & Social Inquiry 304 (2020). Full Text
  • Employer Aversion to Criminal Records: An Experimental Study of Mechanisms (with Naomi F. Sugie (lead author) & Dallas Augustine), 58 Criminology (2020). Full Text
  • Why Do Employers Discriminate Against People With Records? Stigma and the Case for Ban the Box (with Dallas Augustine (lead author) and Naomi Sugie) (UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, July 2020). Full Text
  • The Carceral State at Work: Exclusion, Coercion, and Subordination, in Criminality at Work 496 (edited by Alan Bogg, Jennifer Collins, Mark Freedland & Jonathan Herring, Oxford University Press, 2020). Full Text
  • Working to Avoid Incarceration: Jail Threat and Labor Market Outcomes for Noncustodial Fathers Facing Child Support Enforcement (with Michael A. Stoll), 6(1) RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences 55 (2020). (Special issue on “The Criminal Justice System as a Labor Market Institution,” edited by Sandra Smith & Jonathan Simon.) Full Text
  • Work, Pay, or Go To Jail: Court-Ordered Community Service in Los Angeles (with Lucero Herrera, Tia Koonse & Melanie Sonsteng-Person) (UCLA Labor Center, 2019). Full Text
  • Discrimination and Labour Law: Locating the Market in Maldistribution and Subordination, in Philosophical Foundations of Labour Law 156-174 (edited by Hugh Collins, Gillian Lester & Virginia Mantouvalou, Oxford University Press, 2019). Full Text
  • Disparate Impact and the Unity of Equality Law, 97 Boston University Law Review 1357 (2017). Full Text
  • Does Work Law Have a Future If the Labor Market Does Not?, 91 Chicago-Kent Law Review 1081 (2016). [37th Annual Kenneth M. Piper Lecture] Full Text
  • A New Peonage?: Pay, Work, or Go To Jail in Contemporary Child Support Enforcement and Beyond, 39(3) Seattle University Law Review 927 (2016). [Thirteenth Amendment Sesquicentennial Symposium]. Full Text
  • Get To Work or Go To Jail: Workplace Rights Under Threat (with Tia Koonse, Theresa Zhen, Lucero Herrera, Han Lu, Steven Shafer, and Blake Valenta) (UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment, UCLA Labor Center, A New Way of Life Reentry Project, March 2016). Full Text
  • The Many Meanings of “Because Of”: A Comment on Inclusive Communities Project, 68 Stanford Law Review Online 68 (2015). Full Text
  • Special Treatment Everywhere, Special Treatment Nowhere, 95 Boston University Law Review 1155 (2015). Full Text
  • Seeing Work, Envisioning Citizenship (with Eileen Boris), 18 Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal 95 (2014). Full Text
  • Putting Intent in Its Place: A New Direction for Title VII, 28(4) California Labor & Employment Law Review 8 (2014). Full Text
  • Introduction: Working Group on the Future of Systemic Disparate Treatment Law, 32 Berkeley Journal of Employment & Labor Law 387 (2012). Full Text
  • Poverty Unmodified?: Critical Reflections on the Deserving/Undeserving Distinction, 59 UCLA Law Review 550 (2012). Full Text
  • The Impossibility of Work Law, in The Idea of Labour Law (edited by Guy Davidov & Brian Langille, Oxford University Press, 2011). Full Text
  • Beyond Misclassification: Tackling the Independent Contractor Problem Without Redefining Employment, 26 ABA Journal of Labor & Employment Law 279 (2011). Full Text
  • Supporting Workers By Accounting for Care, 5 Harvard Law & Policy Review 45 (2011). Full Text
  • The Minimum Wage as a Civil Rights Protection: An Alternative to Antipoverty Arguments?, 2009 University of Chicago Legal Forum 1 (2009). Full Text
  • Managing the Macaw: Third-Party Harassers, Accommodation, and the Disaggregation of Discriminatory Intent, 109 Columbia Law Review 1357 (2009). Full Text
  • Revisiting the Class Parity Analysis of Welfare Work Requirements, 83 Social Service Review 213 (2009). [Selected for the 2008 Stanford/Yale Junior Faculty Forum, Labor Law/Social Welfare Policy category.] Full Text
  • Prison Labor and the Paradox of Paid Nonmarket Work, in Economic Sociology of Work (edited by Nina Bandelj, Emerald Press, 2009). [Vol. 19 of Research in the Sociology of Work.] Full Text
  • Working Beyond the Reach or Grasp of Employment Law, in The Gloves-Off Economy: Problems and Possibilities at the Bottom of America’s Labor Market (edited by Annette Bernhardt, Heather Boushey, Laura Dresser, and Chris Tilly, Cornell University Press, 2008). [Annual research volume of Labor & Employment Relations Association.] Full Text
  • Working at the Boundaries of Markets: Prison Labor and the Economic Dimension of Employment Relationships, 61 Vanderbilt Law Review 857 (2008). Full Text
  • What Welfare Requires From Work, 54 UCLA Law Review 373 (2006). Full Text
  • Welfare to What?, 57 Hastings Law Journal 1131 (2006). Full Text
  • Beyond the Zero-Sum Game: Toward Title VII Protection for Intergroup Solidarity, 77 Indiana Law Journal 63 (2002). Full Text
  • A Practical Legal Services Approach to Addressing Racial Discrimination in Employment (with Sharon M. Dietrich), 36 Clearinghouse Review 39 (2002).
  • Note, Sidewalks in Cyberspace: Making Space for Public Forums in the Electronic Environment, 12 Harvard Journal of Law & Technology 149 (1998). Full Text
  • Sex Work/Sex Act: Law, Labor, and Desire in Constructions of Prostitution, 22 Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 277 (1997). Full Text

Op-Eds, Blogs & Other

  • Basic Income and the Freedom to Refuse, Law & Political Economy (Feb. 16, 2021). Full Text
  • Considering and Critiquing Universal Basic Income: Introduction, Law & Political Economy (Feb. 8, 2021). Full Text
  • Where Is the Care in the CARES Act?, Law & Political Economy (Jul. 27, 2020). Full Text
  • Criminal Records Exclusion, “Rational Discrimination,” and Ban the Box, On Labor: Workers, Unions and Politics (Jul. 22, 2020). Full Text
  • Crisis Grading Policy 2.0: Universality over Carve-outs, The Faculty Lounge (Mar. 28, 2020). Full Text
  • Grading in a Time of Crisis, The Faculty Lounge (Mar. 21, 2020). Full Text
  • Care Work in & Beyond the Labor Market, Law & Political Economy (Dec. 12, 2019). Full Text
  • The Public Law of Private Promising, And Not Even That: LPE 101 for Contracts, Law & Political Economy (Feb. 26, 2019).
  • Forced To Work Without Pay: Do Federal Employees Have a Thirteenth Amendment Claim?, On Labor: Workers, Unions and Politics (Jan. 15, 2019). Full Text
  • Masterpiece Cakeshop and the Constitutionalization of “Both Sides”-ism, Law & Political Economy (Jul. 24, 2018).
  • Colorblindness and Liberal Racial Paternalism in Bailey v. AlabamaLaw & Political Economy (April 18, 2018). Full Text
  • Is “the Market” the Enemy?: Racial Exploitation in Bailey v. AlabamaLaw and Political Economy (Jan. 27, 2018). Full Text
  • California Bans the Box, Twice: Bright-Line Limits on Justifying Criminal Record Screens (Part I), On Labor: Workers, Unions and Politics (Jan. 16, 2018). Full Text
  • California Bans the Box, Twice: Establishing Disparate Impact with General Statistics (Part II), On Labor: Workers, Unions and Politics (Jan. 17, 2018). Full Text
  • State Power and the Construction of Contractual Freedom: Labor and Coercion in Bailey v. AlabamaLaw & Political Economy (Nov. 24, 2017). Full Text
  • Thinking Intersectionally About Race and Class in the Trump Era, Law & Political Economy (Nov. 13, 2017). Full Text
  • Kaepernick’s Grievance and Fancy Retaliation Theories, On Labor: Workers, Unions and Politics (Oct. 18, 2017). Full Text
  • The Law Is on the N.F.L. Players’ Side (with Benjamin Sacks), NY Times (Oct. 17, 2017). Full Text
  • How the Anthem Backlash Violates Employment Discrimination Law, On Labor: Workers, Unions and Politics (Oct. 13, 2017). Full Text
  • Chicken Processing as Drug Rehab: Forced Labor in a Diversion Program, On Labor: Workers, Unions and Politics (Oct. 6, 2017). Full Text
  • The GOP Hates Red Tape — Except When it Comes to Poor People, Washington Post (May 30, 2017). Full Text
  • Comment Letter on Proposed Consideration of Criminal History in Employment Decisions Regulations, California Fair Employment and Housing Council (Mar. 24, 2016). Comments
  • Ban the Box and Perverse Consequences, On Labor (Aug. 2016). Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
  • How Criminalizing Unemployment Creates Bad Jobs, Talk Poverty (April 28, 2016). Full Text
  • What’s Wrong With “Work or Jail”, L.A. Times (April 8, 2016). Full Text
  • Power At Work: Mass Incarceration’s Shadow, On Labor (March 30, 2016). Full Text
  • Is Uber Wagging the Dog With Its Moonlighting Drivers?, On Labor (Feb. 1, 2016). Full Text
  • Beyond Misclassification: Gig Economy Discrimination Outside Employment Law, On Labor (Jan. 19, 2016). Full Text
  • Get to Work or Go to Jail: Free Labor in the Shadow of Mass Incarceration, American Constitution Society Blog (Nov. 16, 2015). Full Text
  • Taking Unpaid Housework for Granted Is Wrong, NY Times (Sept. 9, 2014). Op Ed
  • A War on Community Service, Washington Post (April 12, 2008).
  • Welfare Reform—What Really Works, Los Angeles Times (Aug. 23, 2006).