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Anti-Discrimination Law


Key information

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Module description


This course will appeal to students who enjoyed the anti-discrimination aspects of European Law, Public Law, or Human Rights Law, and would like to develop their interest in this topic. It expands greatly on, and complements, the anti-discrimination content of these three subjects. Students may wish to take it concurrently with, or after, Human Rights Law. The right to be free from discrimination (based on such grounds as sex, race, religion, disability, age or sexual orientation) is a human right, and is now taken very seriously in the Council of Europe, the European Union, Canada, and the United States. Indeed, in some affluent democracies, it is arguably the most important human right, and the ""Human Rights Act (or Commission)"" is in fact an ""Anti-Discrimination Act (or Commission)"". The majority of people currently face the possibility of public or private sector discrimination based on one of the grounds mentioned above. As they grow older, everyone is likely to face the possibility of age discrimination.

The course places anti-discrimination law in a broader context: theoretical justifications for the anti-discrimination principle will be examined, and use will be made of historical and social science material where appropriate. The course will make clear the assumptions which underlie traditional thinking concerning anti-discrimination law, and expose these to critical scrutiny. This task is especially important because of the recent expansion and consolidation of anti-discrimination law in Great Britain, as a result of the Human Rights Act 1998, the new anti-discrimination directives under Article 19 TFEU, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the Equality Act 2010.

The first semester of the course introduces students to the general principles of anti-discrimination law, as well as the historical and social context within which these have emerged and developed, and the theoretical justifications for anti-discrimination law. All the main sources of anti-discrimination law in Great Britain are considered. These include ""constitutional"" prohibitions of discrimination applying to the public sector (the European Convention's Article 14 and Protocol No. 12, which are similar to the US Constitution's Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and the Canadian Charter's Section 15), and more detailed ""statutory"" prohibitions applying to both the public and private sectors: Article 157 TFEU and EU anti-discrimination directives (including those adopted under Article 19 TFEU), and the legislation that implements (and sometimes goes beyond) the EU provisions in Great Britain (the Equality Act 2010).

The second semester applies the general principles of anti-discrimination law identified in the first semester to specific grounds of discrimination (sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, race, religion, disability, age). The course concludes by considering the links between anti-discrimination law and criminal law in relation to ""hate crimes"" (violence or harassment motivated by prejudice) and ""hate speech"" (non-violent, non-harassing expression that could incite hatred and consequent violence, harassment or discrimination). Reform proposals are considered throughout the year. The schedule of seminars varies from year to year. The schedule for 2015-16 follows to give students an idea of the topics that are covered.

Seminar 1 - Introduction to the Course and Overview of the Sources of UK Anti-Discrimination Law
Seminar 2 - Prohibited Grounds (protected groups and characteristics: sex, race, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation)
Seminar 3 - Direct Discrimination (less favourable treatment)
Seminar 4 - Indirect Discrimination (disproportionate impact)
Seminar 5 - Material Scope (areas covered: employment, housing, education, services) and Exceptions (direct discrimination permitted; cutting back on initial scope)
Seminar 6 - Conflicts of Rights: ""Constitutional"" Exceptions (freedom of expression, association, religion) to ""Statutory"" Anti-Discrimination Law
Seminar 7 - Positive Action
Seminar 8 – Harassment and Violence (Hate Crimes)
Seminar 9 - Hate Speech (inciting violence, harassment, or discrimination)
Seminar 10 - Theoretical Justifications for the Anti-Discrimination Principle


Assessment details


Teaching pattern

Seminar (1 x 2 hour per week),

Subject areas