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Sandra Sperino

Visiting Professor of Law

Professor Sperino is the author of two treatises in employment discrimination law: McDonnell Douglas: The Most Important Case in Discrimination Law (Bloomberg 2018) (a treatise focusing on the case and its progeny) and The Law of Federal Employment Discrimination (West 2019). Her book, Unequal: How America’s Courts Undermine Discrimination Law (w/ Thomas) (Oxford 2017), was recognized with the 2021 Civil Justice Scholarship Award from the Pound Civil Justice Institute. Her recent articles are published in the Michigan Law Review, the University of Illinois Law Review, the Alabama Law Review and the Notre Dame Law Review, among others. Her article, The Tort Label, was selected for the Harvard/Stanford/Yale Faculty Forum.

Prior to joining the Mizzou law faculty, Professor Sperino was the Judge Joseph P. Kinneary Professor at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. In 2013, 2017, and 2022, she received the Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching. In 2015, Cincinnati Law recognized her work with the Harold C. Schott Scholarship Award; in 2018 she received the Faculty Excellence Award; and the university recognized her with a Faculty-to-Faculty Research Mentoring Award in 2019.

Professor Sperino’s scholarship has been cited by numerous courts, including the Third Circuit, the Fifth Circuit, the Eleventh Circuit, federal district courts, and the Supreme Courts of Iowa, Oregon, and Hawaii. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, on NPR, and in other media outlets. She is an elected member of the American Law Institute.

In 2013 and again in 2019, she served as lead counsel on amicus briefs filed in the United States Supreme Court in cases considering the correct causal standard for federal discrimination/retaliation law. Prior to entering academia, Professor Sperino was a law clerk in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and practiced law in St. Louis at Lewis, Rice. While at Lewis, Rice she co-authored the successful petition for writ of certiorari and the brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court in United States v. Sell. She graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the University of Illinois Law Review.

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  • Education
    • JD, University of Illinois College of Law, ’99
    • MS, Journalism, University of Illinois, ’99
    • BA, Texas Tech University, ’95
  • Areas of Expertise
    • Civil Procedure
    • Employment Discrimination
    • Employment Law
    • Torts
  • Publications


    • McDonnell Douglas: The Most Important Case in Employment Discrimination Law (Bloomberg, updated annually).
    • West’s Hornbook, Federal Discrimination Law (2019).
    • Unequal: How America’s Courts Undermine Discrimination Law (w/ Thomas) (Oxford Univ. Press 2017) (awarded Civil Justice Scholarship Award from the Pound Civil Justice Institute).
    • Federal Discrimination Law in a Nutshell (w/ Player) (West 2017, 2020).
    • Employment Discrimination: Cases and Materials, Carolina Academic Press (w/ Gonzalez) (2d ed. 2013) (3d ed. 2019).
    • Rothstein et al., Federal Employment Law, Discrimination Chapter (West 2019) (both practitioner and student treatises).
    • Book chapter, The Oxford Handbook of Race and Law in the United States (ed. Devon Carbado, Khiara Bridges, Emily Houh) (forthcoming 2022).



    • The Causation Canon, ___ Iowa L. Rev. ___ (forthcoming 2022).
    • Evidentiary Inequality, 101 Boston U. L. Rev. 2105 (2021).
    • Into the Weeds: Modern Discrimination Law, 95 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1077 (2020).
    • The Emerging Statutory Proximate Cause Doctrine, 99 Neb. L. Rev. 285 (2020).
    • Caught in the Cat’s Paw, 2019 BYU L. Rev. 1219 (2019).
    • Justice Kennedy’s Big New Idea, 96 Boston U. L. Rev. 1789 (2016).
    • Discrimination Law: The New Franken-tort, 65 DePaul L. Rev. 721 (2016) (invited submission for Clifford Symposium).
    • Retaliation and the Reasonable Person, 67 Fla. L. Rev. 2031 (2015).
    • Let’s Pretend Title VII is a Tort, 75 Ohio St. L. Rev. 1107 (2014).
    • The Tort Label, 66 Fla. L. Rev. 1051 (2014).
    • Fakers and Floodgates (w/ Thomas), 10 Stan. J. Civ. Rts. & Civ. Liberties 223 (2014) (invited submission).
    • Discrimination Statutes, the Common Law and Proximate Cause, 2013 U. Ill. L. Rev. 1.
    • Statutory Proximate Cause, 88 Notre Dame L. Rev. 1199 (2013).
    • Revitalizing State Discrimination Law, 20 George Mason L. Rev. 545 (Winter 2013).
    • Rethinking Discrimination Law, 110 Mich. L. Rev. 69 (2011).
    • A Modern Theory of Direct Corporate Liability for Title VII, 61 Ala. L. Rev. 773 (2010).
    • Judicial Preemption of Punitive Damages, 78 U. Cin. L. Rev. 227 (2009).
    • The “Disappearing” Dilemma: Why Agency Principles Should Now Take Center Stage in Retaliation Cases, 57 Kan. L. Rev. 157 (2008).
    • Complying with Export Laws without Importing Discrimination Liability: An Attempt to Integrate Employment Discrimination Law with Deemed Export Requirements, 52 St. Louis University Law Journal 375 (Winter 2007-08).
    • Recreating Diversity in Employment Law by Debunking the Myth of the McDonnell-Douglas Monolith, 44 Houston L. Rev. 349 (2007).
    • The Sky Remains Intact: Why Allowing Subgroup Evidence is Consistent with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 90 Marquette L. Rev. 227 (2006).
    • Flying Without a Statutory Basis: Why McDonnell-Douglas Is Not Justified By Any Statutory Construction Methodology, 43 Houston L. Rev. 743 (2006).
    • Under Construction: Questioning Whether Statutory Construction Principles Justify Individual Liability Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, 71 Mo. L. Rev. 71 (2006).
    • Disparate Impact or No Impact? The Future of Non-Intentional Discrimination Claims Brought by the Elderly, 13 Elder L.J. 339 (University of Illinois 2005).
    • Chaos Theory: The Unintended Consequences of Expanding Individual Liability Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, Emp. Rights & Empl. Pol’y J., Vol. 9, Issue 2 (2005) (peer-reviewed journal).



    • Co-Worker Evidence in Court, 65 St. Louis U. L. J. (2020) (invited symposium).
    • Killing the Cat’s Paw, 50 Seton Hall L. Rev. 1303 (2020) (invited symposium).
    • Harassment: A Separate Claim?, 6 Belmont L. Rev. 123 (2019) (invited symposium).
    • Disbelief Doctrines, 39 Berk. J. Lab. & Empl. L. 231 (2019).
    • Guest Blogger, New Private Law Blog, Project on the Foundations of Private Law at Harvard Law School.
    • Beyond McDonnell Douglas, 34 Berk. J. Lab. & Empl. L. 257 (2014).
    • Diminishing Retaliation Liability (w/ Alex Long), NYU Law Review Online (2013).
    • Direct Employer Liability for Punitive Damages, A Response to Joseph Seiner’s Article, Punitive Damages, Due Process and Employment Discrimination, 97 Iowa L. Rev. Bull. 24, 33 (2012).
    • Framing Discrimination Law, Jurist (Fall 2011).
    • The New Calculus of Punitive Damages for Employment Discrimination Cases, 62 Okla. L. Rev. 701 (2010).
    • Diminishing Deference: Learning Lessons from Recent Congressional Rejection of the Supreme Court’s Interpretation of Discrimination Statutes, 33 Rutgers L. Rec. 40 (2009).
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