Thursday, September 4, 2008

Federal Bias Claims Down, But What Does That Mean?

Graph_downFederal job bias claims are down, reports the Daily Labor Report:

After reaching a peak of more than 23,000 employment discrimination lawsuits filed in federal court in 1997, that number has dropped to 14,353 in 2006, the Justice Department reports.

Analyzing federal district court data, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) says that following passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and other civil rights laws, such suits doubled in the 1990s and then held relatively steady through 2003. Since then, however, the number of civil rights suits filed in federal court has declined 20 percent, BJS reports.

Employment discrimination suits, which account for about half of all federal civil rights suits, numbered about 20,000 cases each year through 2003, but the number of job bias suits filed has dropped each year since then, BJS says.

More civil rights cases were tried before juries in 2006 than in 1990, a development the report attributes to the 1991 act, which made jury trials available for Title VII and Americans with Disabilities Act claims. Employment discrimination plaintiffs were most likely among civil rights plaintiffs to recover damages, BJS says. From 2000 to 2006, the estimated median award for prevailing job bias plaintiffs was $158,460, BJS reports.

I have to say that I am skeptical that the incidence of discrimination in the workplace has diminished.  My studies of whistleblower and First Amendment speech claims by federal employees suggest instead that employees have either given up thinking they can receive a fair shake from the agencies of this government or the conservative courts.  On the other hand, some are pursuing alternative routes like negotiated collective bargaining procedures.


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I believe this data refers to all civil rights suits filed in federal court, not just suits filed against the federal government.

Posted by: Dennis Walsh | Sep 4, 2008 10:40:35 AM

What about the increase in mandatory arbitration?

Posted by: Susan Irion | Sep 4, 2008 1:27:49 PM

Kevin Clermont and Stewart Schwab recently posted an article on SSRN that confirms the litigation downturn, concluding that plaintiffs are increasingly reluctant to file employment discrimination claims in federal court because they do so poorly there: "These troublesome facts help explain why today fewer plaintiffs are undertaking the frustrating route into federal district court, where plaintiffs must pursue their claims relatively often all the way through trial and where at both pretrial and trial these plaintiffs lose unusually often."

Posted by: Helen Norton | Sep 4, 2008 3:00:07 PM

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