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Chapter 7

Economic Empowerment and Employment Discrimination: Europe and the United States


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Introduction to the Chapter

A major factor leading to women’s relative poverty compared to men is sex-based employment discrimination.  Women constitute a third of the world’s waged labor force, but are “concentrated in the least skilled and the lowest paying jobs.”  They rarely reach top management jobs where they could earn high pay.  They form a disproportionately large share of part-time workers and as a result receive lower pay rates and are ineligible for maternity, health, and other insurance benefits given only to full-time workers.  They are last hired and first fired.  CEDAW explicitly recognizes the importance of ending sex-discrimination in employment, as does the ICESCR.  Yet human rights advocates rarely describe employment discrimination as a human rights issue. And even 25 years after CEDAW entered into force (1981), the Committee had failed to issue general recommendations on effective measures for ending employment discrimination.

Documents from the Chapter

Each document has its own box.  The box contains, on the top bold line, the name of the document. This is followed by the legal citation (not in bold).  Under these lines, the box contains one or more sources for opening the document.  In the left-hand column (“HTML”or “PDF”), the reader can access the official document copy, hosted on RossRights.  This permits rapid access to the document.  In the right-hand column (“External Link”), the reader can access the same document on an official website.  This link will often take more time to appear than the PDF or HTML copy, but should be used for official legal citations. Asterisks accompany links where additional steps to reach the document are required.

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EC and EU Treaties

Treaty Establishing the European Economic Community (EEC) (1957) ("Treaty of Rome")

Europa EUR-Lex PDF*

*Begins with several blank pages.

Treaty on European Union (EU) (1992) ("Maastricht Treaty") (renaming EEC the "European Community" (EC)) (1992)

Europa EUR-Lex HTML

Amsterdam Treaty (amending Maastricht Treaty and renumbering the EC and EU Treaties) (1997)

Europa EUR-Lex HTML

Treaty of Nice (Enlarging the EU to 25 countries) (2001)

Europa EUR-Lex HTML

EC and EU Directives and Legal Effect

The following article provides a useful summary of the legal force of the various documents issued by the European Parliament and other EU and EC bodies.

Regulations, Directives and Recommendations: Their legal character and how they work,

from Ingeborg Heide, Gender Roles and Sex Equality 18-20, International Labour Office (2004).

Gender Roles and Sex Equality

Treaty source for the above explanation:

Treaty Source for Regulations, Directives and Recommendations: Article 249 of the Maastricht Treaty

Europa EUR-Lex


1976 Equal Treatment Directive,

Council Directive 76/207, 1976 O.J. (L 039) 1, 11 (EC).

Europa EUR-Lex HTML

2002 Directive Amending 1976 Equal Treatment Directive,

European Parliament and Council Directive 2002/73, 2006 O.J. (L 204/23) (RC).

Europa EUR-Lex PDF


1976 Equal Treatment Directive, as amended by 2002 Directive (Consolidated),*

Council Directive 76/207, 1976 O.J. (L 039) 1, 11 (EC), as amended by European Parliament and Council Directive 2002/73, 2002 O.J. (L 269), 15 (EC).

Europa EUR-Lex PDF

*The paragraphs and sections marked with a "B" in the left-hand margin are original to the 1976 Equal Treatment Directive, while those marked "M1" were either added or modified by the 2002 Equal Treatment Directive.


2006 Directive Amending 1976 Equal Treatment Directive,*

European Parliament and Council Directive 2006/54, 2006 O.J. (L 204/23) (RC).

Europa EUR-Lex PDF

*Effect and purpose of this Directive:


This Directive consolidates in one document four prior directives concerning equal treatment for women and men in employment, pay, and occupational social security schemes, and as to burdens of proof.  It also incorporates further amendments, some of which stem from decisions of the Court of Justice of the European Communities.  As part of the consolidation, this Directive repeals the prior directives.  The 1976 Equal Treatment Directive [ETD], as amended by the 2002 Directive, remains on this website, however, because the Court of Justice case law in Chapters Seven and Eight interprets the first, and Women's Human Rights contains questions concerning the second.  The substance of the 1976 ETD, as amended by the 2002 ETD, remains the same in the 2006 ETD as to the issues studied in these chapters.  See especially Articles 14-16 and 23 of the 2006 ETD, for the substance covered by Chapters Seven and Eight of Women's Human Rights.


“The purpose of this Directive is to ensure the implementation of the principle of equal opportunities and equal treatment of men and women in matters of employment and occupation.

To that end, it contains provisions to implement the principle of equal treatment in relation to:

(a) access to employment, including promotion, and to

vocational training;

(b) working conditions, including pay;

(c) occupational social security schemes.


It also contains provisions to ensure that such implementation is made more effective by the establishment of appropriate procedures.” -- Council Directive 2006/54/EC, art. 1 2006 O.J. (L 204/23) (EC).


EC and EU Cases


Commission of the European Communities v. United Kingdom,
Case 165/82, 1983 E.C.R. 3431 (1983).

European Court of Justice (Judgment) HTML

Map of The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland consists of islands in Western Europe,

including the northern one-sixth of the island of Ireland, between the North Atlantic Ocean and

the North Sea, northwest of France. (Note: Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales)


Johnston v. Chief Constable,
Case 222/84, 1986 E.C.R. 1651, 1676-1689 (1986).

European Court of Justice (Judgment) HTML

Map of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is the northeast corner (about 1/6 of the area) of the island that is also home to Ireland. It is due west of southern Scotland, which is in the island of Great Britain. (Note: Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales)

Additional Relevant Links:

Federal Republic of Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland) v. Kreil,
Case 285/98, 2001 E.C.R. I-69 (2000).

European Court of Justice - Judgment HTML
European Court of Justice- Opinion of Advocate General  

Map of Germany

Germany lies in Central Europe, bordering the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, between the Netherlands and Poland, south of Denmark.


Public Ministry  v. Stoeckel,
Case 345/89, 1991 E.C.R. I-4047 (1991).

European Court of Justice (Judgment) HTML
European Court of Justice (Opinion of the Advocate General to the Court) HTML

Map of France

France is located in Western Europe, bordering the Bay of Biscay and English Channel, between Belgium and Spain, southeast of the UK; bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Italy and Spain.

U.S. System


Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (consolidated),

Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, Pub. L. 88-352 (codified as amended in 42 U.S.C., beginning at 2000e) (as amended by the Civil Rights Act of 1991, Pub. L. 102-166 (1991) and the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Pub. L. 111-2 (2009)) (1964).

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission HTML

Additional Equal Employment Opportunity Commission links:

Rosenfeld v. Southern Pacific Co.,

444 F.2d 1219 (9th Cir. 1971).

RossRights HTML


Links from the Chapter

Related Map

The below map is animated to show the order and time at which the current members of the EU joined. If the animation is not moving, either wait for 30 seconds or reload the page.

The European Union, as of Dec. 31, 2008.