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2020 ECPR Winter School in Methods & Techniques

Legal Mobilisation against Workplace Discrimination in Belgium and Sweden: Transnationalism and Convergence in Internal Decision-Making?

Aude Lejeune
Institut d'Études Politiques de Lille
Aude Lejeune
Institut d'Études Politiques de Lille

Some scholarly works on legal mobilization have highlighted the diffusion of litigious policies to address social problems in Europe, considering that a rights’ revolution was underway (Epp,1998; Keleman,2003); others have identified sources of resistance to the diffusion of the mobilization of the courts as a mechanism for promotion of rights in Europe (Kagan,1997). European national agencies for equality, created in the 2000s to address discrimination issues, use litigation to produce social change, both at national and supranational levels. Their strategies, if not new, may tend to redefine legal mobilization against unlawful treatment in the workplace in Europe.

In this talk, I analyze how the Belgian and the Swedish equality agencies select the cases they bring to court. How and according to which criteria do they choose, among the complaints they receive, the ones which are relevant for litigation? Although litigation strategies at the organizational level have been studied in scholarly works (Bouwen & McCown,2007; Vanhala,2009), only a few scholars have examined how European networks influence the internal decision-making. How does Equinet, the European network of equality agencies, promote common frames of interpreting and addressing discrimination in the workplace among European countries? Referring to recent works on social structure and individual actor agency, this contribution aims to highlight organizations’ constraints and resources within different legal regimes, current anti-discrimination policies and legal culture.

Through investigative techniques consisting primarily of open-ended interviews with lawyers working in equality bodies in Belgium and Sweden and in the network European Equinet (N=21), I highlight several challenges faced by studies on legal mobilization, especially when they describe and explain convergence of legal practices, and try to offer suggestions for overcoming these challenges. More broadly, this contribution aims to call into question the processes of transnationalisation and policy transfer from one country to another within the European Union.
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