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date: 26 June 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Engaging theories of legal consciousness, rights mobilization, and workplace conflict, we detail the factors that lead workers to mobilize their rights under US antidiscrimination laws and the obstacles that they face. Drawing on quantitative data from defendants in discrimination lawsuits as well as qualitative data from interviews with plaintiffs in discrimination cases, we examine how workers perceive the law, the meaning of discrimination, and their legal rights; what motivates workers to seek legal redress despite the seemingly insurmountable odds they face; and how workplace conditions affect workers’ willingness to use the law to solve workplace disputes. Analysis suggests that workers pursue litigation as a last resort, after multiple experiences of bias, with the hope of seeking formal validation of their experience and, ultimately, social change. Workforce composition, corporate culture, and access to workplace information are important contextual factors for the emergence of legal claims.

Keywords: employment, discrimination, legal consciousness, rights mobilization, workplace conflict

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