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Contested Constructions of Discrimination

Author: Laura Beth Nielsen

Despite the volume of empirical research about employment civil rights litigation, we know very little about how people come to assess whether workplace experiences are thought to be “discrimination” or “personal disputes.” This project combines a quantitative analysis of judges’ and laypeople’s determinations about whether hypothetical workplace disputes rise to the level of discrimination with qualitative in-depth interviews of judges to probe this determination further. Drawing on the legal consciousness and judicial decision-making literatures, this research examines the effect of social status, workplace context, plaintiff characteristics, and dispute characteristics on the likelihood that a person determines that a workplace dispute constitutes discrimination.

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