Study reports that most job bias plaintiffs lose or recover little

By Kimberly Atkins

The Daily Record Newswire

Plaintiffs bringing employment discrimination claims often receive modest settlements, if anything at all, according to a new report by the American Bar Foundation.

The study, ''Individual Justice or Collective Legal Mobilization? Employment Discrimination Litigation in the Post Civil Rights United States,'' was published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.

It tracked employment discrimination claims filed in federal courts between 1987 and 2003.

The report found that more than 40 percent of plaintiffs either have their cases dismissed or lose at summary judgment.

About half are likely to settle early in the process, and about 6 percent of cases in federal court go to trial, where a plaintiff's chances of winning are about one in three.

Plaintiffs without legal representation, which make up about 20 percent of cases filed, face more dire outcomes - more than half of their cases are dismissed.

''Most cases don't get anywhere near trial. Many plaintiffs, especially those without legal representation, are dismissed or lose on summary judgment,'' said Laura Beth Nielsen, research professor at the American Bar Foundation, who is also associate professor of sociology and director of the Legal Studies Program at Northwestern University.

''Many companies offer token settlements early in the process. As a result, very few cases make it to trial. And in those, plaintiffs mostly lose.''

The results also show that although employment discrimination class actions brought against large corporations like Wal-Mart and Mitsubishi make news headlines, the overwhelming majority of employment discrimination cases involve single plaintiffs.

Published: Thu, Jun 17, 2010


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