The new rights versus wrongs

Discrimination Law. First Edition

May 25, 2007

As Michael Connolly states in his preface to this text, discrimination law is a "technical and difficult subject" and this is "compounded by the extensive and rather ad hoc growth... in recent years, which continues relentlessly".

Indeed, this century has already witnessed the extension of discrimination law to sexual orientation, religion or belief and age; and there have also been major amendments made to the older Race Discrimination, Sex Discrimination and Disability Discrimination Acts.

This year sees the implementation of the Equality Act 2006, and further legislation is in the pipeline as European Union law moves into the field of goods and services (as well as its traditional domain of employment).

Taking the existing market as a whole, discrimination law is dealt with either as a section in general employment law texts or by books providing comprehensive analysis of the subject matter through a text and materials approach, or through providing a selection of essays written by various experts in the field.

All these approaches are valuable in their own right, but what has been missing from the market is a more general reader that provides a comprehensive coverage of discrimination law in all of its manifestations and contexts. Connolly's text does this admirably and it is a timely and welcome resource for undergraduate or postgraduate students, including those on non-law degree programmes who are taking courses involving an in-depth study of discrimination law. While the book explains the law in a clear and accessible way, it does not shirk from discussion of the more theoretical issues, and provides valuable comparisons with other jurisdictions - particularly US law.

The book also contains a very useful section on the Human Rights Act 1998.

This is important, as in the areas of sexual orientation and personal belief it has been the European Court of Human Rights that has provided the impetus for change - although it has been the requirements of EU legislation that has led, in Britain, to the Sexual Orientation, Religion or Belief and Age Discrimination Regulations (and similar new laws in the other EU member states).

However, I have two quibbles in this context. First, an ongoing problem area is the different meanings of "public authority", particular in the context of the employment function, under the Human Rights Act and EU law.

More explicit explanation and discussion of this would have been useful.

Second, given that discrimination legislation in the areas of sexual orientation and religion or belief is inextricably linked to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, I would have preferred human rights law in these areas to have been given more attention in the text.

But these quibbles aside, it should be reiterated that this is an excellent book that comprehensively fills a clear gap in the market. I will be recommending it as the core text to my law and business students who study discrimination law in depth, and I anticipate that colleagues in other institutions who teach similar courses will follow suit.

Discrimination Law. First Edition

Author - Michael Connolly
Publisher - Sweet and Maxwell
Pages - 419
Price - £24.95
ISBN - 9780421930001

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