JOB DISCRIMINATION CASES TEND TO FARE POORLY IN FEDERAL COURT
February 20, 2009
The recently passed Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act -- which makes it easier for workers to sue over pay discrimination on the basis of gender, race, age or disability by extending the legal deadline to file suit -- has given workers new ammunition to file job-discrimination cases in federal court; yet, they still face long odds against emerging victorious, says the Wall Street Journal.
Just because more workers now have standing to sue doesn't mean that they will receive a better reception in court. From 1979 through 2006, federal plaintiffs won 15 percent of job-discrimination cases, compared to 51 percent in all other civil cases.
What contributes to this bad track record, asks the Journal:
- Reasons range from everything from a dearth of minorities on the bench to inherent difficulties in proving job discrimination, which is rarely overt.
- A main reason is that companies can be quick to settle suits that appear credible; cases that aren't settled often are frivolous and should be dismissed.
- Even the federal courts have detected the pattern of more dismissals in discrimination cases; a 2008 Federal Judicial Center report found that judges nationwide terminated 12.5 percent of employment-discrimination cases through summary judgments, before the suits reached trial.
In 90 percent of those cases, it was the employers who requested the summary judgment. In contrast, 3 percent of contract cases and 1.7 percent of personal-injury and property-damage suits were dismissed via summary judgments. Equally troubling to critics is that federal judges also now routinely terminate employment-discrimination cases through motions to dismiss, meaning that the plaintiffs aren't allowed to conduct fact finding to support their claims, says the Journal.
Source: Nathan Koppel, "Job-Discrimination Cases Tend to Far Poorly in Federal Court," Wall Street Journal, February 19, 2009.
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