Original Article from: Women use innovative litigation strategies to fight gender discrimination at work – Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (business-humanrights.org), Business and Human Rights Resource Center, March 8 2021


The fight against discrimination and sexual harassment towards women has gained a significant momentum in recent years thanks to global movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp. Although these citizen movements highlight abuses towards women transcending all aspects of daily life, the workplace continues to be an environment severely concerned by such issues.

The #MeToo and other movements are not only culturally powerful, dismantling and exposing the misogynistic side of our societies, but they are also legally crucial as the courtrooms have been increasingly used as parallel platforms to fight all types of gender-based discrimination on the workplace and push for societal change.

The current momentum has made strategic litigation an even more powerful tool which can rely on a higher awareness on the issue and a more united public support. The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, an organization focused on monitoring the activities of more than 10,000 companies across the world to prevent human right abuses, has shed a light on the matter with a recent compilation of significant cases across the globe between 2018 and 2020.

The Case:

In the second quarter of 2018, Maysa Zorob, Corporate Legal Accountability Program Manager at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, reached out to The Good Lobby to request legal assistance on the identification and analysis of landmark cases for workplace discrimination towards women. The Good Lobby matched their needs with the New York office of law firm Sidley Austin LLP which was willing to help out on the great cause on a pro bono basis.

The Outcome:  

Thanks to the collaboration with Sidley Austin set up by The Good Lobby, alongside the help from Advocates for International Development , the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre was able to compile a list of 6 emblematic gender discrimination cases across Canada, China, Colombia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The research (available here) focused  on geographically diverse areas so as to show how discrimination cases are being litigated across different jurisdictions. Furthermore, it illustrated the different litigation strategies, approaches, and claims women have used around the world to fight gender-based discrimination at work.

To mention some of the findings, the Juren Academy Case in China illustrates how a legislation on discrimination in a legal system does not necessary translate into societal impact without proper implementation. Or yet again, the Riberico Case in Colombia showed how mandatory arbitration clauses in an employment context can be generally detrimental to employees rights, overall undermining the right of access to justice for women.

The study has a strong focus on innovative approaches to litigation and the impact in the national jurisdictions, among others, eventually highlighting new types of legislative tools beyond traditional employment law – such as human rights legislation and tortious mechanisms – that could efficiently offer vital protection for women’s rights. However, it also shed light on areas of employment legislation that would need the legal community’s further examination and improvements.

While the road for gender equality still requires continuing to fight, companies are increasingly held accountable to maintain their working environments free of discriminatory and abusive practices. These impactful strategic litigation cases represent a glimmer of humanity for a society where women and all people across the gender spectrum can go on with their working life feeling safe and protected by proper legislation.  

If you are a civil society organisation fighting for political rights of marginalized groups across Europe, and looking for legal, advocacy or communication assistance, reach out to us via email or fill in this form on our website with your specific request!