In the Labour Court, a trade union or the Equality Ombudsman can act on behalf of the
worker; in the general court system, the Equality Ombudsman can act on behalf of the
One of the tasks of the Ombudsman is to investigate complaints of discrimination. This
includes the provision of advice, but also – at the Ombudsman’s discretion – of representing
the victim of discrimination in settlement proceedings or, ultimately, in a court of law.
Should the individual concerned be a member of a trade union, the right of the Ombudsman
is subsidiary to the right of the trade union to represent its member.
Civil proceedings regarding working life under the Discrimination Act are to be dealt with
in accordance with the Labour Disputes Act.183 Depending on whether the employer is
bound by a collective agreement, whether the person who alleges discrimination is or is
not a member of the trade union with the collective agreement, and whether the trade
union is willing to take up the claim, the case may be heard in the first instance either by
the district court (tingsrätt) with ordinary judges as in other civil cases, or the Labour Court
(Arbetsdomstolen), in a special composition comprised of a majority of judges with a
judicial background and a minority of members with a background in labour market
Whereas it is the injured individual (or an NGO) who has standing (locus standi) as the
claimant at the district court, it is the trade union that takes that position when claims are
dealt with at the Labour Court as the first (and last) instance. A lawsuit taken to the district
court in accordance with the described rules may always be appealed to the Labour Court,
whereas a decision of the Labour Court – whether as the first or second instance – is not
subject to further appeal. As has already been indicated, the Ombudsman can also bring a
case directly to the Labour Court. When the DO takes on a claimant’s case and the claimant
provides a power of attorney, the DO becomes the named party in the case.
The Equality Ombudsman may represent victims of discrimination in all areas covered by
the Discrimination Act. Cases outside working life will be dealt with by the ordinary court
system, i.e. the relevant district court in the first instance. Discrimination in connection
with social security, for instance, (an example of an area that normally falls under
administrative law) is thus dealt with under the general court system, and the ordinary
rules on civil procedure apply.185
The relatively few cases that end up in the court system should not be taken as proof that
action is not taken in cases of discrimination. A number of cases are presumably settled
out of court. The same is probably true concerning the trade unions. Most complaints are
settled during the mandatory negotiations prior to a claim being presented to the Labour
Court. In cases that are settled, the remedies are pretty much the same as those that
apply in the case law of the Labour Court. At times though a settlement can involve better
results, since settlements are not necessarily limited to economic compensation. For
example, a settlement can include compensation combined with employment, which is
something a court could not order. Legal costs can also be reduced through settlement s.
b) Barriers and other deterrents faced by litigants seeking redress
With regard to discrimination cases, inside as well as outside the labour market, there are
various obstacles for potential discrimination litigants, such as low levels of rights
awareness, low levels of trust in the legal system, low levels of experience with lawyers
and the legal system and limited awards if successful. These factors tend to complement
183 Act (1974:371) on Labour Law Procedure.
184 As regards the Swedish Labour Court, see, for instance, the European Court of Human Rights, AB Kurt
Kellermann v Sweden, No. 41975/98, judgment of 26.10.2004.
185 Some university or higher education cases may also be brought before the Board of Appeal for Higher