Resolved: Most Employment-Discrimination Claims Are, Almost Inherently, Bogus

I base the resolution on a few data points from my own workplace history.

One, I cannot think of a single instance in which I, or any co-worker, was fired, or denied promotion, or treated worse, because of race, sex, national origin, or any other protected-class status. The closest I might be able to come is a couple of guys who I’ve seen let go for having bad writing and communication skills, which may have been exacerbated by their thick Russian accents (but I suspect having an unintelligible accent is not a protected-class category, anyhow, as ability to communicate is a legitimate workplace criterion). I am sure the argument would be that we/I are all so institutionally racist/sexist/whateverist that we’re blind to discriminatory conduct when it’s right in front of our eyes. But it just doesn’t jibe. If I fire someone, I have to spend considerable time searching for and training his/her replacement. This is a part of my job that I absolutely hate. Why would I or my company go out of our way to do this just to gratify some racist or sexist biases? I also like making money, and chasing away or not promoting highly-qualified subordinates sounds like a good way to keep my salary from going up, which I don’t like.

Second: when I/we have fired or denied promotion to anyone (and I’ll note for the record that my own firings have disproportionately been of white men), there has been a universal consensus (not just among management, but among their rank and file peers) that they were screw-ups, and if anything, should have been let go long ago.

But most important to my premise: if you really were such a highly-qualified, high-achieving, star employee, but management or some individual bigot decided to sabotage your career: why wouldn’t you just go get another job? Unless every single company in the world is run by bigots, presumably, you’d be at work on the new job within days, so where would your damages be? I know anti-discrimination laws are also meant to serve exemplary and punitive purposes, but shouldn’t the gist of them be recovering lost income, and how could a truly highly qualified person ever lose much income from irrational prejudice at a given job, when there are plenty of other jobs at which his/her talents could shine?

…how many work place discrimination claims have occured at your work?

One can make the exact opposite argument and be correct. i.e ***Most Employment-Discrimination Claims Are, Almost Inherently, True. ***

Let me see: since I began working full time, I have been aware of about 20 being made (that includes a few different workplaces).

Please tell me that you are kidding. I don’t know what things are like wherever you are, but here in central florida, the job market is the poorest it’s been in a decade or more. Jobs aren’t out there to be had, and those that are require extensive experience or technical training. In my area, a non-bilingual has little chance of getting even the most menial of jobs since we have had a heavy influx of Latinos over the last few years. In retaliation, there are plenty of places run by the old guard who won’t hire anyone BUT whites, or black etc. Is it legal? no, but they just work around the issue.

In my experience, certain kinds of discrimination are rampant. We’re just swapping anecdotes here, but I imagine studies have been done on the subject. For example, I recall reading about a study in which resumes were sent out, essentially identical, except that some of them contained stereotypically black-sounding or hispanic sounding names. My prediction is that the resumes with white-sounding names get a significantly better reception.

That argument has some merit if (1) the economy is doing reasonably well; and (2) the victim of discrimination is under the age of 45. If the economy is not doing so well, it can be difficult – even for a decent worker – to find a new job. Also, it’s often very difficult for an older worker to find a new job.

ETA: I do concede that a lot of frivolous discrimination claims are filed. A lot of workers don’t really understand the concept of “at will employment,” so if they are fired unjustly (in their opinion) they go running off the the EEOC or wherever. Also, a lot of people have a victim mentality and see discrimination everywhere.

But what if you aren’t highly qualified? What if you have average qualifications, and there is a lay off, and they pick you first not because you are the least effective, but because you fit in the least because you are somehow different and you don’t happen to be the superstar? This is why people worry about the overall percentage of minority/gender representation in an office: lots of times when you hire people, no super star applies. There are duds, and people that would probably do ok. If everytime you pick the same sort of person out of the “will do ok” pile, soon you have an office that all looks the same. And that’s discrimination, even if though there not be one clear cut case where clearly the less qualified canidate was preferred.

“You’ll be fine as long as you are extraordinary” doesn’t help most people, by definition.

If your point is “no good employee would have a rational economic basis for making up a bogus claim, so the claims must be true,” it leaves out the fact that, observationally, not all employees are good.

If your point is “no bad employee would jeopardize his job by making a bogus complaint,” well, he might, if his “badness” was catching up to him and the job was about to go away.

In either event, it doesn’t address my point: where are the real economic damages when you, a brilliant star employee, are the victim of irrational discrimination? I never see claims being brought to the tune of: “Those racists fired me even though I was their best employee ever, as witness the fact that their competitor Acme Co. hired me the next week at a higher salary, so I want the $580 I lost during the week it took me to get a job, plus some punitive damages.” I have always seen claims for huge amounts of economic damages, and frequently, the person is still unemployed.

This would tend to be your first problem. :wink:

The argument is not that everyone is institutionally racist/sexist/whateverist. It generally isn’t assumed that all workplaces, or all smaller groups within workplaces are either institutionally -ist or grossly recognisably so. The argument isn’t that all workplaces are bad, and therefore since your own is fine, the argument is without merit. Likewise, your own workplace being fine doesn’t mean that all workplaces are equally so.

As to your problems with firing, I suspect one of the larger problems within whatever-ist hiring/firing practices is that those in charge don’t think that said person is highly-qualified, or a good worker, or whatever, even if they are. The racist/sexist/whateverist boss thinks that they do have a poor worker, or at least not equivalent worker, on their hands - getting rid of them and not promoting them makes perfect sense both in terms of helping the company and helping themselves.

Again, your company being fine doesn’t mean that all are. You can’t generalise from the workings of a sole company and declare from that that most discrimination claims are worthless.

“Within days”? How long ago has it been since you got a new job?

A problem; we’re not just talking about the excellent, fantastic, magnificient workers. We’re talking about the merely great workers, or even the entirely standard. Do only non-star quality people get fired by your company? If the concept of discrimination is that a person is treated poorly as compared to some other people, then they don’t have to be the perfect employee to be treated as less than they are worth. And even the star employees aren’t going to be able to get a new job within days.

In addition, damages are not just monetary. They’re emotional, too. You can’t picture people being thoroughly pissed off about being sacked unfairly? Or perhaps having a sense of fairness jarred? The importance of the problem isn’t just money, but justice. If I steal your wallet in the street, my punishment isn’t just to give the money back, and no harm’s done. We have justice systems that seem to think that punishing a thief with jail or the like is a reasonable idea to try and get them to stop doing it in the future, and to assuage our demand for justice. Good reasons, really.

Oh, and again, you’re generalising far too much.

The racism, or anythingism, becomes much more apparent when one examines the recruitment figures.

If you look at certain factors, such as the percentage of eligable applicants vs racial makeup (or gender makeup) of successful applicants, then it can become very obvious there is discrimination in some organisations.

You can see this in many organisations, further up the ladder you look at the education, skills and qualifications of potential promotees, and you soon come across a layer beyond which certain groups cannot seem to achieve.

Whilst the '‘ism’ is not overt, it is there, many organisations would be concerned but how do you get past the ones carrying out the promotion boards?

Many organiastions have scoring systems, with preset questions and the replies are scored against set criteria, but then you end up with folk who know the company babble and not necassarily the actual best candidate.
Once you have attended a couple of these promotion boards, you begin to understand the language.

In my experience though, its because of temporary promotions that one serious issue lies.

Imagine a post which is responsible one, the organisation has certain procedures for permanent recruitment to that post.
It so happens that there is almost always a system of allowing someone to act temporarily in promotion - and the criteria is almost always much less stringent than the permanent post.

What happens with these is that some more senior manager tempoarily recurits to this post one person who they think might be promising, based only on their own values.

When that post is finally recruited for on a permanent basis, everyone applies, but the one who was acting temporarily will have gained an unfair advantage of experience over the rest of the field.

In retrospect, I don’t think I have seen any minority person gain temporary promotion, so they are always at a disadvantage.

HR is a very skilled role, there are so many barriers it is difficult to taket hem all into account.

The differance can be marked, in some of our very largest organanisations. you simply do not see ethnic minorities or women in the top two or three tiers, yet at certain lower levels, the feeder roles, the classic white male is in a minority.How can that be if there is equal opportunity for all?

It could be if there were differences in ability or willingness to work very hard among the lower tier cohorts.

You are right that I was speaking only of the classic “I got fired because my boss hates my race/religion,” not of the “I never got hired, because they’re bigots.” Mind you, reasonable minds could differ as to whether the former scenario serves as a feedback loop reinforcing the latter – “he might be okay, he might not work out, but if he doesn’t work out, there’s no way we can fire the only minority guy, so let’s not take the risk.”

Back in 1987, I got sent down to Columbia, SC for six months to work with the large computer software firm there on a project for my company.

In my very first meeting with the Director of the unit I was to work with, one of the first words out of his mouth after asking me if I’d met his team was;

“Someday we’re going to fire that nigger.”

Needless to say, I was stunned. All my worst fears about being in “The South” were confirmed in that one sentence. They did fire the guy, about a month later. True enough, there were some performance issues on his end of things, coming in late and leaving early, but holy shit.

Over the intervening 20+ years in several industries, I’ve seen shit that makes me ill. Because management can always circle the wagons to cover for one person’s biases, and they often DO lie to protect each other.

…and how many of these claims went to court, and how many were upheld?

Only one went to court. The complainant did not prevail.

To be fair, I work in an industry in which there is a chronic shortage of qualified candidates. As noted, hiring, training, and retention are expensive and a PITA. We are much, much more likely to be guilty of hiring or retaining a marginal/bad candidate for no really good reason, than of dismissing a stellar or even medium-talented one without good reason. If I started adding in further bogus criteria to not take viable candidates into account because of race/sex/whatever, I’d only be narrowing a narrow field further, and thus shooting myself in the foot.

And, it is a world in which the well-qualified and hard working have considerable mobility (until the financial market apocalypse of the past two weeks, which anecdotally I think has led to hiring freezes in every industry, it would literally have been within some of my better subordinates’ reach to be fired on Monday and back at work at another shop within a week or two). In industries where mobility is not so high, I can imagine that the transaction costs of an unwanted job search could be a bit higher, even for the superstars.

…so your claim that “Most Employment-Discrimination Claims Are, Almost Inherently, Bogus”, which is “based on the resolution on a few data points from your workplace history,” is based on one case?

You misunderstand. The other 19 did not go to court because the company determined they were baseless and the employee, bluff called, did not sue.

My premise is also based on the a priori logical reasoning I’ve set out, to the effect that for-profit enterprises would not, generally, take actions that would thwart the utility or profit they could extract from otherwise-talented workers, based solely on racial animus, etc.

I lost the best job I ever had and the only job I ever really wanted due to ageism and/or an individual bigot; I was in my late fifties at the time and the guy in question was a died in the wool religious fanatic whom I had told to keep his religion to himself. And, I did find another job within days and at a higher rate of pay. I had to leave the state where I hoped to finish my life; I had to leave many friends behind, I had to leave my Masonic Lodge behind and I had to leave behind doctors who knew me well, leaving me with the problem of locating new medical caregivers. My losses were substantial even though I did find a new job and had my relocation expenses paid into the bargain. So in my case, your premise might seem to hold water, but, and this is a big but, money ain’t everything and losing one’s income ain’t either. To my dying day I will regret that I didn’t hire a Louisville Slugger to explain things to that asshole although I will admit that I got a lot of satisfaction about six months later when I learned that he and the jerk he hired to replace me had both been fired; a couple of the friends I left behind told me they were basically fired for sheer incompetence. You need to take things like what happened to me into consideration when you consider damage done and emotional pain induced.

How about

Resolved: Discrimination claims must be looked at individually to determine whether they are meritorious or "bogus.