"The Legal Approach to Equal Opportunities in Europe: Past, Present and Future"

Michigan Law Authors
Publish Date
International Journal of Discrimination and the Law
Publication Type
Journal Article

The aim of this paper is to provide an overview for non-specialists of the body of law relating to equality of opportunity between women and men under European Community law. The paper considers the history of the development of equality law in EC law, describing the development of Article 119, the development of the three most important directives in the 1970s, the growth of litigation surrounding Article 119 and these Directives, the controversy over supplementary directives in the 1980s, the adoption of the Pregnancy Directive in the 1990s, and the increasing use of 'soft law' instruments such as in the area of equal pay and sexual harassment. The paper considers how the jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice has interpreted these legal provisions, concentrating on various themes: the concept of 'indirect discrimination', the appropriate use of positive action policies, and the meaning of equal pay for work of equal value, amongst other issues. The paper considers how these provisions are enforced. It sets out the role of the Commission in bringing infringement actions, the role of individual litigation in the Member States' courts, and the role of the European Court of Justice under Article 177 references. In particular, the paper considers the extent to which the Court of Justice has scrutinised the adequacy of national enforcement of equality rights, and the principles underlying legal remedies for breach of European equality law. Finally, the paper considers the factors which are likely to influence the future of equal opportunities law in the European Community in the near future.

Full Text