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Laura Carlson


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Works at Department of Law
Telephone 08-16 25 49
Visiting address Universitetsvägen 10 C
Room C 872
Postal address Juridiska institutionen 106 91 Stockholm

About me

My main assignment at the Department of Law is as Director of International Affairs for the period 2018-2021. This means that I am responsible for internationalization issues concerning student, teacher, staff and researcher exchanges.


I have a B.A. from Carleton College (USA), a J.D: from the University of Minnesota (USA), a masters of laws from Uppsala University, and a juris doktor (Ph.D.) from Stockholm University. I was a fellow at the Institute of European and Comparative Law and Christ Church, Oxford University during 2014-2015. I was nominated in 2017 by the Swedish Research Council to AcademiaNet as an outstanding woman of science.


I am the editor-in-chief of an international publication beginning in 2017, Comparative Discrimination Law published by Brill Nijhoff Publishing. I am a board member of the Education Council (Utbildningsutskottet), the Institutet för social civilrätt and the Stiftelsen Folke Schmidts minnesfond för arbetsrättslig forskning.


I am head of the labour law  department. I am course director for the upper-level elective courses, Equality Law, Comparative Law and American and English Business Law.


My areas of research include labour and employment law, discrimination law, access to justice, comparative law and academic freedom.

I am currently working on several projects, a chapter on Access to Justice in Barbara Havelkova and Mathias Möschel (eds.), Anti-discrimination Law in Civil Jurisdictions (Oxford University Press) planned for 2019; a chapter on pay equity in Carin Wanman et al. (ed.), Festskrift till Örjan Edström planned for 2019; a chapter on The Paradox of Transgender Law in Sverige in Isabel Cristina Jaramillo Sierra (ed.), The Civil Status of Transgender Globally (Springer) planned for  2020; and a chapter on #MeToo and Sverige in Ann Noel (ed.), The Worldwide #MeToo Movement: Global Resistance to Sexual Harassment, planned for 2020. I am also a co-editor and author of a chapter on discrimination protections for the anthology, Arbetsrätt och välfärd/Labor Law and Social Welfare (Iustus) planned for 2019.

My most recently published book was the result of my most recent research project, Workers, Collectivism and the Law: Grappling with Democracy  -  A Comparative Legal Study of the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and the United States, was published by Edward Elgar Publishing in the fall of 2018.

I have recently completed three research projects. Together with Prof. Cecilia Magnusson Sjöberg, we have completed the project, Employment law, copyright and privacy protection concerns as raised by teaching in digital environments, which was granted SEK 5.3 million by the Stiftelsen Marcus och Amalia Wallenbergs Minnesfond in 2012. The final book, The Wired World of University Teaching – Legal Challenges, was published by Ex Tuto in the summer of  2017. I was responsible for the policy section in the seventh framework EU research project, FamiliesAndSocieties - Changing families and sustainable societies: Policy contexts and diversity over the life course and across generations (€ 6.5 million during 2013-2017), which report also came out in 2017, I was also a researcher in the EU project ADPOLIS – Antidiscrimination policies successfully implemented. The project dealt with the success factors of policies against racial or ethnic discrimination that are already implemented in European cities amd was completed in the spring of 2018.

I have been a National Reporter several times, two of my favorite being EU projects within central labour law (the right to strike and the mandate of the union) administered by CGIL, an umbrella labour organization in Rome. I have also been a researcher in another seventh framework EU project, RECWOWE (2006-2012), Reconciling Work and Welfare,


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2018. Laura Carlson. Scandinavian Studies in Law 65, 39-56

    In this volume celebrating 50 years of information technology at the Department of Law, Stockholm University, it is fitting for two reasons to examine the interplay between information technology and academic freedom during this ground-breaking period for. First, without academic freedom, the legal academy would never have in general developed much beyond traditional Roman law subjects such as the law of obligations, and definitely not to include something as cutting-edge as information technology already in the 1970’s. The second is that information technology has changed the faces of both teaching and research, and thus the premises for academic freedom, both facilitating and obstructing its exercise by legal scholars. Two specific challenges raised to academic freedom will be addressed at the end, one with respect to teaching, the copyright to teaching materials and the other with respect to research, the protections of extramural utterances, both as facilitated by digitalization and social media.

    This article begins by briefly exploring the history of academic freedom, university research and teaching, as well as its modern legal protections, then goes over to the impact of information technology on academic freedom in four legal systems, the US, UK, Germany and Sweden. The need for the law regarding academic freedom to keep up with the technological-advances made in the past half century is not only self-evident, but also integral to future academic endeavors.

  • 2018. Laura Carlson.

    This comparative legal work highlights how employee voice, both collective and individual, assumes different guises in the legal and industrial relations models in the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and the United States. At a time when labor rights are gaining status as human rights, a comparison of different systems, delineating the boundaries of such rights, is warranted by the protections sought and granted. The historical trajectories of the four systems have much affected the outcomes in the form of today’s national labor law models as well as those key issues still contested. The historical origins of collective worker organizations in the form originally of the guild system, expanded to journeymen associations, to the modern worker organizations are traced. A comparison of these different systems from the perspectives of employee voice and Habermas’ procedural democracy concludes the book. The origins of worker collectivism historically lie with the guilds, whose history spans continents and millennia. The Greek and Roman collegia provide examples of internal democracy, as well as external controls in the form of legislation limiting many aspects of trade, even the choice of whether to enter into a trade, with fathers and children consigned to continuing the family trade for the good of the Roman Empire. The three early European guild systems examined, English, Swedish and German, display similarities with respect to their development as well as internal self-regulation and provision of mutual aid. The guilds in this early period were pockets of democracy offering stability and support for their members in times of great social uncertainty and change.

    In England, the fourteenth century saw the rise of the English guilds and the sixteenth the beginning of their demise. The Reformation, with its acceptance of profit and the Crown’s need to control corporate bodies, paved the way for dissension between masters and journeymen that eventually resulted in legislative control of wages and work conditions. The delicate internal balance that had been democratically achieved within guilds, with equal rights and the consideration of the positions of apprentices and journeymen as future guild members, was abandoned for a structure where guild leaders, at least in the London Great Twelve, no longer even needed to have had practiced the trade in order to attain leadership. Freedom of trade and production as well as profits became the focus. The commodification of labor began, sowing the seeds for the modern understanding of employment. Journeymen organized to provide the mutual aid once given by the guilds. The seventeenth to twentieth centuries in the UK saw the death of the guilds, the rise of journeymen associations to provide former guild support and mutual aid, which functions were eventually assumed by trade unions. After a century of legislative persecution of worker combinations as unlawful conspiracies, the Trade Union Act 1871 invoked the technique of immunities facilitating collective action and bargaining. A system of collective laissez-faire was established, with the state setting floors through legislation with respect to work conditions, and the social partners using collective bargaining to flesh out these rights. This non-intervention by the state was however eradicated by Conservative legislation in the period between 1979-1999 with ever tighter regulation of trade unions in the conscious attempt to reduce their power. The past thirty years have continued this political legislative battle, with often and radical legislative changes depending on government.

    In Germany, the guild system became very nested in German society, the Hansa guilds in cities, the craft guilds in the home towns, providing social security at a time when Germany comprised over one hundred sovereignties. This explains both the lateness of any questioning of their existence, as well the attempts to create structure after Napoleon through a reinstatement of the guilds. The social security provided by the guilds was a motivation in 1830s Prussia as to implementing state social welfare and led to such a broad acceptance of state intervention that it was adopted on the national level in the 1870s to counteract the radical worker movement. The Nazi destruction of all worker rights led to strong constitutional protections of worker rights and voice in the 1950 Basic Law, which have continued in the present day German labor law model comprising works councils, employee board representation and trade unions.

    In Sweden, the historical timeline from the dismantling of the guild system to the self-regulation of the labor market by the Swedish social partners was a little over fifty years. The guilds were outlawed by 1864 and by 1906, the social partners had entered into a collective agreement that laid the foundations for the present day Swedish labor law model, characterized by strong employer and employee organizations acting as cartels, a model not too dissimilar to the former guild structures. The pragmatic approach of the social partners and the very detailed procedural structures in place with respect to negotiations and industrial actions, have resulting in very few lost work days due to strike. The current challenges facing the Swedish labour law model are those mostly coming from the outside, in the form of international and EU requirements as to individual rights, which are to be met by this very collective rights approach.

    The labor movement in the United States was faced a different set of challenges than Europe. Immigration and race very quickly became issues even for the colonialists. The journeymen structures became quickly embedded in the colonies, and by the 1833, the first trades’ union was founded. Depressions after the Civil War led to class strife, with the military often called in and the outcomes in lost lives high. American courts were active in industrial actions to a high degree, repressing union activity through injunctions. State action, discrimination, violence and corruption also significantly mark the history of the union movement, leading the American legislature to focus on issues different than its European counterparts. The duty of fair representation was judicially created as a counterpoint to racial discrimination within unions, creating a right to worker voice and accountability by unions already by the 1940s.

    Internationally, starting as ad hoc efforts by states and individuals to gain legal protections with respect to slavery, indenture and servitude, the focus of international efforts expanded to the conditions of workers more generally. These gradually evolved into strong cooperations, motivated by the devastation caused by two world wars, beginning with the League of Nations and the ILO. Labor organizations had already begun cooperations in the late nineteenth century which eventually became the international trade union confederations in existence today. Certain employee rights are now recognized as human rights on the international level by the UN and the ILO, and also on regional levels, including the EU, COE and the OAS. The rights recognized have also become more nuanced, beginning with limitations to the work day and night work protections, to now including issues of worker voice, not only rights to join unions, but also rights of consultation and negotiations.

    The themes addressed in the modern UK labour law model have deep historical roots, with the current treatment of these issues very much reflecting the modern political debates. Democracy within the trade unions, between members and their organizations, has been used politically as a tool for restricting the power of the trade unions. Despite this, a voluntary trend can be traced within the unions as to greater representation of different worker groups. The UK system has several avenues available as to employee grievances, first bringing them to the employer. Acas can provide conciliation, mediation and arbitration and trade unions legal assistance. The balance achieved in the UK labour law model, between statutory regulation and self-regulation by the social partners, resting on constitutional principles such as natural justice and access to justice, provides a unique solution to employee voice. The modern German labour law model is built on both strong social partners and strong individual employee rights particularly with respect to voice. The dual channel system with employee representation through both works councils and labor unions provides several avenues for employees to raise issues, directly to the employer with support, to the works council or to the trade union. The works councils are given enhanced statutory duties with respect to certain protected groups based on sex, age, disability and race. Two cornerstones can be seen in the procedural rules concerning labor disputes: quick and efficient solutions that are transparent and focused on the needs of the public, as well as that employees are to have access to justice to courts, with a reallocation of trial costs and fees to minimize the economic risks to employees, as well as checks that the costs and fees are not excessive. The current Swedish labor law model is very focused on the social partners and collective solutions to labor market issues. Union members have no statutory rights with respect to the unions, and no voice with respect to employers except through the unions or litigation. Elaborate procedures have been in place concerning the negotiations between the social partners, with extensive rights as to industrial action, with sympathy, secondary actions lawful. The trends with respect to the low damage awards and the relatively higher attorneys’ costs and fees create a significant deterrent for individuals to pursue employment grievances. Litigation is arguably not an affordable option for most individual plaintiffs, particularly in cases of employment grievances with respect to hirings or firings, consequently individuals who are unemployed. Although technically a one-channel system of employee representation, American federal law creates several avenues of employee voice in addition to labor organizations. Individual employees can bring claims to state and federal agencies alleging unfair labor practices or unlawful discrimination, which agencies investigate such claims. Employees can also act together concertedly outside the scope of a labor organization and still be afforded legal protection. Extensive statutory requirements exist with respect to labor organizations and procedural due process demands. The labor unions also have a duty of fair representation, entailing that they must as the exclusive representative of the employees, represent all the employees equally. This duty is regardless of an individual’s union membership status, sex, race, religion, disability or age. This emphasis on employee voice and access to justice in American law is very much a legacy of past discrimination.

    Beginning with the premise that procedural guarantees for union members with regards to labor union decisions, particularly responsiveness and the interests protected in line with Habermas’ procedural concept of democracy, create legitimacy within existing labor law structures, this work has examined the labor law models of the United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden and the United States. What the history of worker collectivism reveals is that procedural due process has always been a component, but perhaps not always expressly articulated, in worker collectivism since the time of the early guilds. Solidarity, equality and mutual aid have been ever present, to various degrees and in different forms. A way forward is to consciously build on and strengthen procedural democracy for union members, through legal protections as to transparency and procedural due process for union members. Given the greater focus today on human rights in the labor law context, the mechanisms necessary to invoke these rights need to be in place to give them effect.

  • 2017. Laura Carlson.

    Human history is marked by group and individual struggles for emancipation, equality and self-expression. This first volume in the Brill Research Perspectives in Comparative Discrimination Law briefly explores some of the history underlying these efforts in the field of discrimination law. A broad discussion of the historical development of issues of discrimination is first set out, looking at certain international, regional and national bases for modern discrimination legal structures. The ILO and Europeanisation of discrimination protections through the Council of Europe and EU are examined. Regional human rights instruments, including those of the Organization of American States, the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, The League of Arab States and Commonwealth of Independent States are cursorily taken up. National discrimination protections include the United States, the United Kingdom and Sweden. Several of the theoretical frameworks invoked in a comparative discrimination law analysis are then addressed, either as institutional frameworks or theories addressing specific protection grounds, including comparative law parameters, the role of law, access to justice, and outcrit theories. This first volume is dedicated to setting out an introduction to the field of comparative discrimination law to give the reader a platform from which to undertake further reading and research in the compelling topic of comparative discrimination law.

  • 2017. Laura Carlson. Festskrift till Ann Numhauser-Henning, 129-143

    This chapter focuses on combating unlawful discrimination; a battle firmly entrenched in both Swedish and EU law. Hand-in-hand with eradicating unlawful discrimination are issues of access to justice, the ability of individuals to seek and obtain effective remedies for unlawful discrimination through institutions of justice. The focus of this contribution is on three vital aspects necessary for disadvantaged communities to have access to justice. The first is effective, proportional and dissuasive remedies for discrimination claims. Closely tied to this are aspects two and three, whether the Swedish justice system is financially accessible for discrimination plaintiffs and whether legal counsel is available to such plaintiffs. This contribution examines the institution of discrimination damages (diskrimineringsersättning) as newly created in the Swedish 2008 Discrimination Act, both as intended by the legislature to increase access to justice and as applied by the Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen, ‘AD’). The intention and application of the law will be assessed against an access to justice analysis focusing on the award of damages as well as trial costs and fees, and access to legal counsel for plaintiffs.

  • 2017. Laura Carlson. Niklas Bruun i Sverige: En vänbook, 57-70

    This chapter presents a historical overview of the concept of academic freedom, and then a comparison of the development and protections of academic freedom in Germany, the United States and Sweden. Not surprisingly, the argument is made here for greater and more explicit constitutional protections with respect to academic freedom.

    Academic freedom is a fundamental concept in the world of academia, but despite it being often cited, there is little detail in the law to offer any substantive definition of what it is. Historically, academic freedom has been discussed from three different perspectives, the general freedom of the university as originally a religious corporate body separate from the royal power, the academic freedom of students, and the academic freedom of professors with respect to enquiry and teaching. This chapter focuses on the academic freedom of professors, and this from the legal parameters found in the German, American and Swedish systems.

  • 2017. Livia Sz. Oláh, Barbara Hobson, Laura Carlson.

    This working paper summarizes the main results produced in the large scale collaborative research project FamiliesAndSocieties, financed in the EU Seventh Framework Programme during the period February 2013 – January 2017. Addressing first the growing diversity of family life courses and their main mechanisms of change, the research then focuses on linked lives and interdependencies through the lens of changing gender and intergenerational dependencies. Societal contexts and policies are addressed in highlighting vulnerable groups, issues of recognition and social inclusion, and family-relevant EU and national level policies. A brief discussion on future social risks and policy challenges, and on the implications of the project findings for policy frameworks concludes this report.

  • 2017. Laura Carlson, Cecilia Magnusson Sjöberg, Frantzeska Papadopoulou.

    The digitalization and commercialization of teaching have greatly complicated the university world; twin processes that have wrought great changes to institutions of higher learning, both externally with respect to their roles in society, and internally with respect to the relationship between universities, teachers and students. These processes raise both new and old questions with respect to academic freedom, copyrights to teaching materials, employment rights, open access and data protection, public sector information and transparency. The recurring thread in all the chapters presented in this work is a more focused, explicit treatment of these issues in the law is needed, taking into consideration the different interests of society, the academy, academics, students or the public.

    The analyses in this book give rise to the question what law, lawyers and legal systems can provide as responses. There obviously is a need to bring in legal assessments, proactively, at the early stages of e-learning development. When e-learning and e-applications are already launched, it is more costly and complicated to reactively rectify the situation, for instance, in cases of flawed personal data protection. Law needs to play an active role. Last but not least, legal systems as such must protect and strengthen the values of a democratic society. When traditional academic learning is challenged internally and externally by commercialization and digitalization, academic freedom and the protections of privacy and moral rights are essential. The need for digital humanities is compelling in learning environments where artificial intelligence and associated algorithms have become part of our daily lives.

  • 2016. Laura Carlson, Örjan Edström, Birgitta Nyström.

    GLOBALISATION AND INTERNATIONALISATION have had significant consequences for the regulation of labour markets in recent decades. This volume addresses some of the questions raised by the necessary rethinking of labour law-related issues. Labour and employment law have become increasingly interdependent at all levels, while simultaneously an increasing fragmentation of legal sources has occurred. This collection of essays provides different perspectives on aspects of these processes, in international or European perspectives, in the light of fundamental human rights or with a view to Swedish labour and employment law. The volume ends by looking into the future through the lens of the fragmentation of labour and employment law.

  • 2014. Laura Carlson. Information Technology and the Law
  • 2013. Laura Carlson. Revista Română de Dreptul Muncii 4, 99-122
  • 2012. Laura Carlson.
  • 2011. Laura Carlson. Juridisk Tidskrift 2011/12 (1), 21-49

    When enacting the most recent Discrimination Act (2008), the Swedish legislator deliberately removed the term “race” from the list of unlawful discrimination grounds. According to the legislative preparatory works to the act, this was to demonstrate that a biological concept of race is unacceptable: “[T]here is no scientific basis for dividing human beings into different races and from a biological perspective, consequently is there neither any reason to use the word race with respect to human beings.”  The Parliament also stated that the Swedish Government is to act in the international arena towards that the word “race”, as used with respect to human beings, to as great a degree as possible is avoided in official texts. The Government was also to review the extent to which the term “race” occurs in Swedish laws not based on international texts, and as far as possible, suggest a different term. To date, no such alternative term has been proposed, either by the Parliament or the Government. This “post-race” perspective by the Swedish Parliament can be juxtaposed against the judgments of the Swedish Labour Court (Arbetsdomstolen) in cases raising claims of unlawful ethnic discrimination. In one almost contemporaneous case, by way of example, the Labour Court found that statements by fellow workers, calling the plaintiff names such as Blackey, did not amount to unlawful ethnic discrimination in the workplace as the Court found that the plaintiff had consented to this banter. The paradox resulting from these examples appears irreconcilable, with the Parliament assuming a protection that the courts are not giving. However, when evaluating this through the lens of Critical Race Theory, though still not desirable, the paradox becomes more understandable. Part One of this article sets out the legal theoretical framework addressing race based on Critical Race Theory. Part Two explores the treatment of “race” as defined by these theories with respect to religion, immigration and ethnic origins in the Swedish legislation and the case law of the Swedish Labour Court. The disparity between the application of discrimination protections by the courts and the intentions of the legislator in removing the word “race” from the legislation is explained by CRT as part of the ongoing historical process of not seriously addressing the structural discrimination existing in society.

  • 2008. Laura Carlson.

    Based on the Swedish Land Code, An Introduction to Swedish Real Property Law gives an overview to helps foreign students and practitioners better understand the real property system in Sweden. The book focuses on the creation, assignment and registration of real property rights, including user rights such as landlord/tenant rights.

  • 2008. Laura Carlson, Tore Sigeman, Ronnie Eklund.

    Swedish Labour and Employment Law: Cases and Materials provides the reader with an orientation in labour and employment law in Sweden as well as certain of the effects of European Community law. After the introductory part providing an overview and background of Swedish labour and employment law, the second part of this work comprises cases. Each case is presented with an introductory note including a brief description of the historical setting and applicable legislation, a summary of the facts and arguments, with comments afterwards discussing the issues raised in the cases. Many of the cases included are seen as landmark cases in Swedish labour and employment law. The third part of this work includes several collective agreements regarded as significant on the Swedish labour market. Two of the primary statutes, the Joint Regulation Act and the Employment Protection Act, are also included in this work.

  • Thesis (Doc) Searching for Equality
    2007. Laura Carlson, Ronnie Eklund, Clare McGlynn.

    Achieving economic equality between men and women is a challenge to every country. The approach taken politically and legally in Sweden is to encourage a greater economic independence of women from the family through paid work, as well encouraging men to assume a greater share of unpaid work, particularly parental leave, resulting in a lessening of the double burden of work for women. These efforts have made within the context of the parameters of the Swedish model with respect to labor, in which the preferred mechanism of resolution is agreement between the social partners and not legislation. To this end, the Swedish collective agreements have been analyzed specifically with respect to taking parental leave. The other parameters in the area of sex equality applicable to the Swedish system are those as defined by Community law, specifically the equal treatment and equal pay directives, against which the Swedish regulations as well as case law applying such are assessed.

    This work takes the Swedish approach to the problem of economic equality and compares it to the approaches as found in EU, UK and US law. In the UK, there has been a recent emphasis on a family friendly workplace, which is to be achieved at least in part through flexible working. The American approach has focused on discriminatory behavior as a societal phenomena. Comparisons to these two national systems are interesting also from an industrial relations aspect, as Sweden is the most unionized at 80 %, followed by the UK and then by the US at only 15 %.

    The findings of this thesis suggest that Sweden may need to reassess its approach to equality between the sexes, as well as issues of discrimination in general, incorporating aspects of access to justice into the legal system, as well as reassessing the role of the labor unions, and the Swedish model, with respect to such questions in general...

  • 2006. Laura Carlson. Arbetsrätt, rörlighet och tillväxt, 156-183
  • 2004. Laura Carlson.

    American Business Law - A Civil Law Perspective is written to give lawyers trained in civil law a basic overview of the American legal systems, as well as certain fundamental areas of the law.

    The systems discussed in Part I include the common law, the separation of power as well as the checks and balances between the different state institutions, federalism, as well as civil and criminal procedure. Part II explores property (including intellectual property), contracts (including sales and CISG), torts and the law of business enterprises.

    The extensive agency law and power existing at both the federal and state levels is addressed in Part III, specifically in the areas of employment and labor law, consumer law, environmental law, antitrust and securities law. The concluding chapter addresses the role of lawyers in the American legal systems.

Show all publications by Laura Carlson at Stockholm University

Last updated: January 2, 2020

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