Bargaining in the Shadow of Social Institutions: Competing Discourses and Social Change in Workplace Mobilization of Civil Rights, 39 Law & Soc'y Rev. 11 (2005)
The Family and Medical Leave Act requires employers to provide job-protected leave, but little is known about how these leave rights operate in practice or how they interact with other normative systems to construct the meaning of leave. Drawing on interviews with workers who negotiated contested leaves, this study examines how social institutions influence workplace mobilization of these rights. I find that leave rights remain embedded within institutionalized conceptions of work, gender, and disability that shape workers' perceptions, preferences, and choices about mobilizing their rights. I also find, however, that workers can draw on law as a culture discourse to challenge these assumptions, to build coalitions, and to renegotiate the meaning of leave.