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Professor Bisom-Rapp’s Whirlwind Trip to Modena, Italy

March 24, 2014

Professor Bisom-Rapp spent her spring break in Modena, Italy, where every March since 2003, the Marco Biagi Foundation (MBF) at the University of Modena has hosted an international conference devoted to international and comparative employment and labor relations. Professor Bisom-Rapp has attended the event annually since 2007, making this her eighth consecutive year as a conference participant. While in Modena, Professor Bisom-Rapp chaired a conference panel, participated as a commentator at the Young Scholars’ Workshop, gave a guest lecture to Ph.D. students, and attended two committee meetings.

This year’s conference, “Labour and Social Rights: An Evolving Scenario,” brought together scholars from Europe, Africa and the Americas, who analyzed the challenges involved in providing employment-related social safety net programs (e.g. unemployment insurance, job retraining, workers’ compensation, and publically provided pensions) at a time when more and more people work outside of traditional employment relationships. Particular attention was given to the economic forces changing standard employment relationships, the values and interests that should be protected as new types of work emerge, and the theories and strategies that should anchor new forms of protection for working people. Participants addressed these issues from a number of disciplines including law, industrial relations, economics, and human resource management.

Professor Bisom-Rapp served as chair for a panel titled “Social Dialogue and Labour Standards,” which covered six papers written by professors from six countries: Germany; Russia; South Africa; Ireland; Italy; and Brazil. “The discussion on this panel was very diverse,” she said, “since the papers were on six very different subjects.” Even so, common themes were evident. “The papers dealt with the way our understanding of what counts as ‘work’ is evolving and changing over time, as is our willingness to think about the rights and protections all people who work should be entitled to,” noted Professor Bisom-Rapp. Another theme that emerged from the panel was the variety of mechanisms that can be used to provide voice to the concerns of the most vulnerable workers.

In addition to chairing the panel, Professor Bisom-Rapp helped organize and was a commentator at the MBF’s annual Young Scholars’ Workshop. This is Professor Bisom-Rapp’s third year of involvement with this portion of the annual conference events. “This year we heard and commented on papers from Ph.D. students from the U.K., the U.S., Italy, Hungary, and Spain,” she said. There were eight papers presented in all, and Professor Bisom-Rapp was lead commentator for two of them:  one paper was on age discrimination law in the U.K. and Finland written by Alysia Blackham, a graduate student at Cambridge University in the U.K.; the other paper analyzed U.S. discrimination law claim outcomes by comparing the results of litigation to mandatory arbitration, and was written by Mark Gough, a graduate student at the School of Industrial Relations at Cornell University in the U.S. “Creating ties with the new generation of comparative scholars is one of the most exciting parts of the conference,” said Professor Bisom-Rapp. “The quality of the scholarly work they are doing is inspiring,” she added.

The Marco Biagi Foundation is also home to the International Doctoral Research School in Labour Relations, which promotes Ph.D. work that is comparative and interdisciplinary.  Professor Bisom-Rapp was asked to give a special guest lecture to the Foundation’s Ph.D. students. Her 2.5 hour lecture was titled “Anti-Discrimination Law in Common Law Countries: The U.S. and the U.K. as Examples, and the Insights of Social Science.”

“The lecture had three goals,” noted Professor Bisom-Rapp. “First, I wanted to place two national systems side-by-side to reveal similarities and differences in the legal approach to anti-discrimination law. Second, I explained the social and political context in each country so that students would understand why we see these similarities and differences in the law. Finally, I identified social trends, evidentiary problems and social phenomena, such as stereotyping and implicit bias, that operate across national borders and limit the law’s effectiveness.”

Finally, in addition to all the activities described above, Professor Bisom-Rapp attended two meetings. One was a meeting of the Foundation’s Scientific Committee, to which Professor Bisom-Rapp has just been appointed. The Scientific Committee, which is the Foundation’s academic advisory board, discussed and adopted the theme for the 2015 annual conference. The other was a meeting of the Foundation’s International Council, which handles curricular issues associated with the Ph.D. program.

Professor Bisom-Rapp is an internationally known scholar in the field of comparative workplace law, who writes about globalization, equal employment opportunity, occupational safety and health, and the rights of migrants.

Professor Bisom-Rapp regularly teaches a seminar on international and comparative employment law at Thomas Jefferson School of Law. The seminar uses her co-authored casebook, The Global Workplace (2d. ed. 2012), and is the only course of its kind offered in Southern California.

Picture #1: Roger Blanpain (Universities of Leuven (Belgium) and Tilburg (the Netherlands); Susan Bisom-Rapp (TJSL); and Manfred Weiss (G.W. Goethe Univ. Frankfurt)

Picture #2: Bill Roche (Univ. College Dublin); Avinash Govindjee (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Univ.); Marius Olivier (Northwest Univ. Potchefstroom); Susan Bisom-Rapp (TJSL); Hèlio Zylberstajn (Univ. of São Paulo); Nikita Lyutov (Moscow State Univ.); Olga Chesalina (Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy).