Sex-specific protective labour laws are considered unacceptable by many analysts because it is presumed that they necessarily adversely affect labour market oppor tunities for women. This paper reviews United States research that has sought to assess the validity of this assumption and reports on the impact of these laws within Australia. It is shown that the assumption that sex-specific labour laws have a detrimental influence on female employment opportunities is not supported by United States research or Australian data. It is concluded that a reform strategy based on the assumption that these laws necessarily discriminate against women may involve loss of employee protection without necessarily producing any compen sating increase in employment opportunities for women. 1. © 1993, Sage Publications. All rights reserved.