March 1, 2009
Learning from American Antidiscrimination Policies
With 40 years of experience in antidiscrimination law and affirmative action, the United States constitutes a major point of reference for French policy-makers. Whether perceived positively or negatively, the American example can certainly make a significant contribution to the French debate on how to best foster equal opportunity. Moreover, examining the American antidiscrimination framework is particularly timely as France has just adopted European-level directives that require developing tools for identifying and combating all forms of discrimination, especially indirect discrimination.
More generally, the French government is exploring means for promoting equality that might be compatible with its constitutional framework, which doesn’t allow for the collection or use of ethno-racial data. This issue has become a priority: in December 2008, President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed Yazid Sabeg as Commissioner for Diversity and Equal Opportunity, a first-of-its-kind position in the government. Commissioner Sabeg created a “Committee on the Measurement and Assessment of Diversity and Discrimination,” and submitted to President Sarkozy an action plan to promote diversity and equal opportunity in May 2009.
Convinced that the lessons drawn from the American model can help enhance the French debate on equality of opportunity, the French-American Foundation initiated a study on the American antidiscrimination framework in late 2008 under the supervision of Daniel Sabbagh, Senior Research Fellow at CERI-Sciences Po.
Focusing on employment, this study has a twofold objective:
- to describe the general architecture and internal logic of the system to fight employment discrimination in the United States, beyond the ethno-racial categories on which it is based;
- to examine how certain instruments developed in the United States, which have proven effective in fighting discrimination and promoting equal opportunity, could be adapted to the French system by using categories other than ethno-racial ones.
This brief summarizes the findings of this study.