The Effect of Sex and Race Discrimination Lawsuits

The Effect of Sex and Race Discrimination Lawsuits

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research published a report analyzing more than 500 consent decrees in discrimination litigation.  Most of these were negotiated by the EEOC or the Department of Justice and focus on court ordered changes to the workplace.  Unlike many private settlements, the terms of consent decrees are often (but not always) public, and are intended to alter workplace dynamics or policies to prevent future discrimination or harassment.

The report describes several large class action consent decrees in detail, including one intended to end systematic pay discrimination in the aerospace industry, endemic sexual harassment, including rape, of undocumented farm workers, and sex discrimination in uniformed services, such as prison guards.  It concludes that the best decrees require objective criteria for hiring, assignments and promotions; monitoring of the effectiveness of the programs put in place to end discrimination; and a mechanism to hold management accountable.  It also suggests that having an external monitor is important, particularly with smaller employers, and with systemic sexual harassment.

This report makes fascinating reading.  The authors demonstrate a deep understanding of the nuances of a workplace in which the employees are suspicious of the motives of management, wary of retaliation, but hungry for fair treatment.  The resources they bring to bear, and suggest adding, create the potential for settlements which create long-lasting change.

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