Employment Discrimination Lawsuits are Less Successful in Federal Court.  With recent federal enactments minorities and members of protected classes have the ability to assert their civil rights under more legal theories than ever.  Just because more workers have standing to sue, however, does not mean that they will receive a better reception in court, if previous patterns hold steady.   In Kentucky, it has become the common practice of attorneys to file discrimination suits in state court and avoid federal court entirely

From 1979 through 2006, federal plaintiffs won 15% of job-discrimination cases. By comparison, in all other civil cases, the win rate was 51%, according to a study to be published by the Harvard Law & Policy Review. ”  Judges demand more of discrimination cases than other types of cases,” says Stewart Schwab, a co-author of the study and the dean of Cornell University Law School.

The odds against winning discrimination cases have some employee lawyers reluctant even to try. “We will no longer take individual employment-discrimination cases, because there’s such a high likelihood of losing,” New York plaintiffs’ attorney Joe Whatley Jr. says. Job-discrimination case filings declined by 40% from 1999 to 2007, federal court records show.

Even the federal courts have detected the pattern of more dismissals in discrimination cases, though they surmise different reasons for it than do plaintiffs’ lawyers. A report by the Federal Judicial Center, the research arm of the federal courts, found that judges nationwide terminated 12.5% of employment-discrimination cases through summary judgments, before the suits reached trial. In 90% of those cases, it was the employers who requested the summary judgment. In contrast, the study found, 3% of contract cases and 1.7% of personal-injury and property-damage suits were dismissed via summary judgments.

Kurt A. Scharfenberger

Source:  Harvard Law & Policy Review