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 holds an Open Society Fellowship to develop this project.