2018 Seminar – Trans and intersex equality rights, Equality Bodies making a difference, The United Nations’ and the EU’s approach to disability equality, Family leave: enforcement issues and Prohibition of harassment as tool to tackle hate speech
On 30 November 2018 the annual legal seminar of the European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination (EELN) took place. The seminar brought together 180 representatives of the European Commission, EU Member States governments, Equality Bodies, EU umbrella organisations, academics from across Europe, as well as members of the network itself.
The participants were welcomed on behalf of the European Commission by Irena Moozova, director for Equality and Union Citizenship of DG Justice and Consumers. She highlighted in her welcome several recent Commission initiatives, among others the 2018 recommendation on standards for Equality Bodies, the 2018 proposal for the European Accessibility Act, an important tool to improve equal treatment of persons with disabilities, and several policy initiatives in the field of gender equality, including among others the evaluation of the equal pay provisions in EU legislation.
Participants were subsequently treated to an inspiring keynote address delivered by Eleanor Sharpston QC, Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union. She first drew the attention of the participants to three important cases (Bauer C569-16), Kreuziger (C619-16) and Max Planck Institute (C684-16) and pointed out that the essence of these cases is that if the Charter of the EU encapsulates a fundamental right, and the Charter itself is clear and precise enough and there is a directly effective provision of a directive you can rely on the charter in order to say to the national court in a case against a private employer: “If all else fails you are required to disapply a conflicting rule of national law.” She then discussed three topics: recognizing that a particular situation is discriminatory, finding the right comparator and the type of discrimination (direct or indirect). In doing that, she used many CJEU cases as illustration. An important element in her address was that the CJEU needs to be careful to spend time and effort to explain its reasoning when coming to a decision which is a step in the development of EU law. In her view the CJEU not take too big a jump, but contributes to the development of EU law incrementally.
The workshops of this year’s seminar covered the most prominent topics addressed by the EELN during its fourth year as joined gender and non-discrimination network.
Workshop – update of European case law
The workshop discussed recent developments in the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and ECtHR in the field of non-discrimination and equality, referring specifically to recent important judgments and their impact on equality and anti-discrimination legislation on the national level.
Workshop – Trans and intersex equality rights
In the framework of the United Nations, the Council of Europe and EU (European Parliament and European Commission) initiatives have been taken to improve the situation of transgender and intersex persons. Against this background, the European Commission has requested the European network of legal experts to conduct a study giving an overview of the legal state of play, problems and best practices on transgender and intersex equality rights across the European Union and in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway. The report addresses relevant domestic legal non-discrimination and gender equality frameworks as they apply to transgender and intersex persons, monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, and problems encountered at the national level. The workshop provided an overview of the findings of the study and discuss conclusions, best practices and recommendations.
Workshop – Equality Bodies making a difference
Equality bodies have been established in all EU Member States, many on the basis of the transposition of the EU Directives 2000/43/EC, 2004/113/EC, and 2006/54/EC. Equality bodies have a broad mandate to promote equality and combat discrimination on a wide range of grounds. There is a diversity of mandate, structure, competences, scale, and history evident among these equality bodies. They are understood as key to the effective implementation of the EU equal treatment Directives and the achievement of change for individuals and groups experiencing inequality. However, they encounter a variety of challenges when attempting to implement their mandate and fulfil their potential.
The European equality law network has prepared a thematic report that presents and analyses the current spectrum, situation, operation, and impact of these equality bodies. The report was presented and discussed during the workshop. Participants discussed key issues emerging in relating to the independence, effectiveness, and accessibility of equality bodies and how these might now be addressed to secure their future impact.
Workshop - The United Nations’ and the EU’s approach to disability equality
The equality and non-discrimination norms are central to implementation of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), to which the EU is a party. The workshop discussed the main findings of a report written by Professor Lisa Waddington and Dr. Andrea Broderick of Maastricht University for the European network of legal experts in gender equality and non-discrimination. The focus of the workshop was on the essential requirements of the equality and non-discrimination norms under the CRPD and a subsequent comparison of those requirements with the key elements concerning disability equality and non-discrimination found in the EU legal order - the EU Treaties and, in particular, the Employment Equality Directive (2000/78) and related case law.
Workshop – Family leave: enforcement issues
The Commission has published a proposal for a Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers and repealing Council Directive 2010/18/EU (COM (2017) 253). This proposal includes in particular rights related to paternity leave, carers’ leave and parental leave. Against the background of this proposal, the European equality law network has prepared a report with a focus on the enforcement and potential obstacles of the protection against dismissal, discrimination and unfavourable treatment of pregnant workers and in the context of family related leaves. The workshop participants will discuss the outcomes of the study and will be invited to give feedback and further insights on enforcement and hurdles which victims of discrimination and unfavourable treatment face/may face in relation to the take-up with regard to family related leaves and flexible working arrangements.
Workshop – Prohibition of harassment as tool to tackle hate speech
Hate speech seems to be increasingly present in the public domain and (social) media. In certain EU jurisdictions, the concept of harassment has (long) been used as a tool to effectively tackle hate speech. The workshop explored how the prohibition of harassment in national anti-discrimination legislation can be employed in fighting hate speech across the EU. The workshop participants discussed the conceptual and practical challenges, as well as successful precedents, of applying this legal approach to tackle the hate speech phenomenon in relation to all equality and non-discrimination grounds covered by the European equality law network.