Comparative Labor and Employment Law

Course Number: LABR 623


This course is designed to provide students with an overview of labor and employment law in several countries representing different approaches to the fundamental social and legal project of protecting workers’ rights and regulating the relationship between labor and capital.  By exploring labor and employment laws that are rooted in different histories, political economies, and sociocultural and legal systems, students will develop a broader understanding and deeper appreciation of the fundamental labor/management issues confronting contemporary industrial societies, including the US, China, and Germany.  Individual and collective contracts, wages and benefits, working hours and leave entitlements, protections from discrimination and unfair dismissal, the right to organize, bargain collectively, and seek redress of grievances – these are some of the issues that will be explored in a comparative framework.  In an era of global supply chains, decentralized production, and the increasingly rapid and transnational movement of capital, goods, information and people, it is important for students of labor to develop a comparative and international perspective on the laws that govern labor relations.

Learning Outcomes:

  • Students will be able to identify and explain the principal needs and objectives  commonly addressed by national and international systems of labor law, employment law, collective bargaining agreements and/or other components of labor relations regimes
  • Students will identify the primary sources of national labor and employment law in at least five countries and understand how to gain access to that information for research and analysis
  • Students will be able to discuss and evaluate variations in labor law, employment law, collective bargaining agreements, and labor relations  internationally, with particular attention to assessing how well such systems protect workers’ rights and regulate the relationship between labor and capital
  • Students will learn to use historical and comparative evidence to evaluate contemporary proposals for labor legislation and collective bargaining agreements



Session 1: Labor Law in Comparative Perspective: a framework for study
Why and how to compare differing national labor laws
Functional vs. institutional comparisons
International labor standards

Session 2: The Nexus of Labor Relations: background and unique characteristics,
The United States

Session 3: The Nexus of Labor Relations, Part II.

Session 4: The Nexus of Labor Relations, Part III.
Great Britain

Session 5:  Individual agreements
Who is an employee and who is an employer?
Varieties of labor contracts: individual, collective, and employment at will
Employment contracts vs. service contracts
“Non-standard” employment

Session 6: Wage levels and working hours
Minimum wage laws
The living wage
The work week

Session 7:  Work, family, and leave entitlements
Vacation, sick leave, holidays
Maternity leave and parental leave
Flexible work arrangements

Session 8: Health and Safety on the job
Aspects of the US and Chinese experience
Health and safety in the context of globalization and development

Session 9: Equality, Anti-Discrimination and Privacy in the Workplace
Anti-discrimination legislation: protected categories
Gender equality

Session 10: Layoffs, Dismissals, and Non-Competition
Fair and unfair dismissals
“Collective redundancies” and “downsizing”
Non-competition covenants

Session 11: The Right to Organize
Trade unions and the law

Session 12: Representative Organizations and Collective Bargaining
Collective action
Worker participation

Session 13: Collective Industrial Action
Other Collective Actions, formal and informal

Session 14: Dispute Settlement
Grievance procedures
Arbitration and mediation
Disputes over rights
Disputes over interests

Session 15: Trends and Challenges
Governing the workplace
Self-regulation and co-regulation
The global and the local