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How Lara Spencer’s Comments About Ballet Demonstrates Implicit Bias


Good Morning America anchor Lara Spencer apologized for her comments about the news that Prince George will be taking in a ballet classes.

“The comment I made about dance was insensitive it was stupid and I am deeply sorry,” Spencer said during a broadcast of GMA.

Earlier in the week, Spencer had reported about Prince George’s school activities, laughing about the fact that he really enjoys ballet. “We’ll see how long that lasts” she said as the GMA audience laughed and clapped in the background.

Spencer was prompted to make the apology after an avalanche of criticism from the Broadway and dance communities, both male and female. Many male dancers painfully recounted how their decision to perform ballet or dance in general made them targets of bullying.

The fact that Spencer did not realize the insensitive nature of her comments, and the audience’s laughter in response to such comments, demonstrates something known as implicit bias.

What Is Implicit Bias?

Implicit bias refers to the unconscious bias someone may have regarding other classes of people. For example, when someone automatically assumes that a software engineer is male, it suggests their gender-bias with regard to that profession. The challenge about issues involving implicit bias is that the judgments are subconscious, so a person is often unaware about that they foster certain prejudice.

An even bigger issue involves the degree of fault that should be associated with implicit bias. Because implicit bias involves unintentional assumptions about another person, it can present a unique challenge in a legal context.

Bias and Employment Discrimination

In New York federal, state and city laws prohibit unlawful discrimination in a place of employment. Under the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against employees on the basis of religion, race, creed, national origin, and sex.

New York State and New York City Human Rights Law expands the classes of protected persons to additionally include:

  • Age
  • Creed
  • Color
  • Sexual orientation
  • Marital status
  • Disability
  • Military status
  • Domestic violence victim status
  • Criminal or arrest record
  • Predisposing genetic characteristics

Employers can be held liable for basing certain employment practices on one of the protected classes mentioned above. This includes hiring, promotion, employee discipline, and termination practices. Furthermore, an employer can be held liable for constructively terminating an employee who was forced to resign from their job if discrimination caused a hostile work environment.

Although a big issue in discrimination cases involves proving a connection between unlawful discrimination and an employment practice, comments that demonstrate implicit bias can expose a person to liability for discrimination. While evidence of implicit bias alone may not constitute unlawful discrimination, it can be used as further evidence of discrimination if taken in context with other instances that strongly suggest a more pervasive and conscious bias against a member of a protected class of persons.

Consult Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP

You have a right to work in a place that is free from unlawful discrimination and harassment. If you suspect that you’ve been subjected to wrongful discriminatory employment practices, you should get in touch with an experienced attorney from Schwartz Perry & Heller LLP. We are committed to preserving your rights in legal disputes involving employment practices such as discrimination and harassment cases.

To schedule a consultation about your case, please call us at (646) 490-0221 or contact us onlinetoday.

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