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

…maybe the employee couldn’t afford to sue? What processes did the company go through to determine the claims were baseless? Where the managers, etc who were being complained about involved in the determination that the claim was baseless?

19 claims seems to be excessive: was this over the course of a year, or longer? Maybe I’ve only worked in “safe” work environments, but I can’t think of any discrimination cases that have been bought against companies I have worked at, let alone 19.

With respect, this is an extraordinary premise. You are making the assumption that people will always make rational decisions: but in the real world this doesn’t happen.

It’s over the course of a goodly number of years. If you’re not directly involved in hiring/firing yourself (I am, curses), you may not be aware that grievances are filed with some frequency among terminated employees (to give perspective, the 20 or so grievances I know of come among dozens and dozens of terminations/non-promotions/bad performance reviews).

There are fairly extensive, formal, and robust investigative processes. No, the alleged offender is not involved in the adjudication of the complaint (except as a witness being grilled about what went down, or didn’t). Part of the review process is finding if there is a paper trail of bad or mediocre written reviews, repeated (and documented) truancy, bad performance, unexplained absence, bad quality work output. As I said, other than cases where a mailroom guy punches out his supervisor and gets fired that day, terminations tend to come after a long period of underperformance, so it’s rare to have only one person be the source of the negative review/decision to fire.

On the final point, and also with respect: no, I know people don’t always make rational decisions. But for-profit businesses that want to maximize stakeholder value (and even middle managers are stakeholders, as they can’t get raises, or promotions, or stock options, if the company stagnates), and that stay in business over the years, may as a rough approximation reasonably be assumed not to adopt personnel policies that would lead to the defection, firing, or wrongful suppression of talented employees for non-economic reasons.

In this thread a poster brags about an environment in which the men swing their penises in each other’s face while at work. I imagine some women (and men with an emotional level over 13) might find that a hostile work environment.

It’s hard to prove unless there is a very specific, individual case pertaining to it, but in the world of academic (faculty) hiring, there is often a bias towards hiring those who are younger and/or who have not been working in the college world for very long. And there is certainly some other profiling going on which, again, can be quite hard to prove, yet it’s occurred so many times and has been mentioned by so many colleagues at one campus after another that it’s no longer possible to deny it.
There are occasionally claims made, however, and sometimes the claimants actually win their cases.

Just saying.

Have you ever lived someplace without workplace discrimination laws? I have, and I saw rampant discrimination all the time. For example, an unmarried young women will NEVER get hired at an Indian call center (they are afraid that the woman might spend too much time planning their wedding.) Nor will people over 30 (more likely to fight back if they are treated unfairly). Nor will people from certain ethnic backgrounds (raw prejudice). I’ve actually seen these hiring interviews with my own eyes, where they are grilled about their age, family, etc. It’s not pretty.

I don’t mean to be rude, but have you ever take a course in statistics? Your sample is hardly random and is strongly biased in favor of your own viewpoint. Yet from that you’re generalizing to all employment discrimination claims across the country.

Your premise may be true, but what do you think the practical effect on anything should be?

I say none. That is, doing the proper investigation for each claim is worth it even though a high percentage of claims may be bogus.

Your post suggests two possible sidetrack discussions:

  1. Much of what the law proscribes as “discriminatory” is arguably economically-rational business behavior, in a way that, say, firing a brilliant programmer because of the color of his skin is not economically rational, and not motivated by anything other than (as you note) raw prejudice. If it turned out that Indian brides-to-be really did spend a lot of time planning weddings, Hell, left to my own devices, I’d think twice before taking on people who were going to plan a Hindu freaking wedding (I’ve been to those things) on my time. And, hesitation to hire older workers is not entirely irrational. Can anyone here seriously say they would view a coherent, seemingly healthy 80 year old job applicant in exactly the same light as his 25 year old competitor? Yet the law requires that you pretend to do so.

Nonetheless, the law is what it is, and we work within it – recognizing that much of what society has chosen to proscribe as discriminatory is really just a policy choice we’ve chosen to implement (e.g., it was always entirely rational for an employer to ask a young female candidate if she planned to have children – it was highly relevant to the arc her career would take and her availability to the company – but we have chosen to forbid that, not because it’s not relevant, but because the policy choice was to insulate women from having to make a choice between career and family.). I get that.

  1. Maybe my OP should have been closer to: in a society in which stringent employment law protections have been implemented effectively, IME, the wrongful discharge/discrimination claims that do end up getting made skew toward the low-performing portion of the office population. The rest seem to just quit a place where people are irrationally hostile to them (I see much, much more office politics-driven or personality-conflict driven strife, firings, defections, than discrimination-fueled trouble) or, if unfairly given walking papers, shake the dust from their sandals and go somewhere their talents will be better appreciated.

My former employer was consitently paying women lower salaries than men in equal positions with equal experience. They were caught out doing it. Apologies and dollars were offered before it went to court, but it would have had they not paid up, and they would have lost, and would have deserved to lose.

My wife’s company discriminates on the basis of both age and gender. It’s only a matter of time before they get sued.

Once, I had a client who did not want us sending in a consultant because she was Indian. We told them to go fuck themselves and never did business with them again… but I wonder how they treated their employees?

It happens all the time, I’m sad to report. I do believe a lot of claims are bullshit, just as a lot of worker’s compension claims are bullshit, but many claims are valid.

Well, in practice, that is what we are doing. The practical effect is that I get less and less likely to believe that the next given claim flying in over the transom is going to be legit.

I guess one incremental change might be cost-shifting if the complaint turns out to be entirely baseless.

There are many cases of actual discrimination that don’t result in a lawsuit. It may have been just coincidence, for example, if the oldest and only female in a department, having had consistent reviews of “excellent,” and no negative evaluations, gets laid off before younger males with less experience. When certain facts are called to the employer’s attention by an attorney, it may be coincidence that said terminated employee’s severance package suddenly gets sweetened. On the other hand it may be that the employer was committing age discrimination and, when called on it, chose to pay off rather than risk being sued, and the accompanying publicity. Just my humble experience.

Has it occurred to you that your industry underpays its emplyees to the extent they would go through the hassle of a job search as frequently as you suggest?

Finding another job requires selling yourself to potential employers. This works out well if you are a star salesman, not so well if you are the author of the worlds fastest and most robust device drivers. * In short, a stellar employee’s skill set often does not include good self promotion skills. When I have interviewed engineers and programmers I, in fact, view such skills with more than a little suspicion. When I have worked with these people I have found they tend to undermine teambuilding.

*Please forgive the stereotyping of programers as introverts with poor social skills.

One might speculate that an unfairly terminated employee who found another job in a short period at the same or higher pay would not bother suing, as actual damages would be, as you say, minimal. It’s only those who for one reason or another are unemployed for a long time that are likely to profit from a lawsuit.

Nah, it’s kind of the opposite – they’re in sufficiently high demand that the job search isn’t much of a hassle, so the qualified ones will do it at the drop of a hat. Sometimes I think they just like feeling like the belle of the ball, being courted and flattered by competing companies. In a market like that, the job search is to doing your actual job as test driving a cool sports car is to making the payments.

I know Bill, that’s the point though – what is the “one reason or another?” The article that originally prompted this (can’t find it just now) was about a guy in his 30s or so who was let go in early 2004 and “has not found another position.” He’s claiming millions of dollars of damages, based on the theory that his Orthodox Judaism was the cause of his termination. Well come on – if he were that good, four and a half years should probably suffice to convince another, Orthdox-friendly establishment, to take him on. My personal guess that he’s a weirdo, an underperformer, a complainer isn’t based on the beanie on his head, and I doubt the employer’s was, given how the market has voted on him in the intervening years.

Oh, well if you have one guy in an article you read that you can’t find that’s good enough for me. Your premise that most employment discrimination claims are invalid is accepted.

I wonder why that is?

Like I said, interviewing in an employee-friendly market is actually kind of fun – you can get your foot in the door pretty much anywhere with a phone call or two, they make you all kinds of promises about how things will be better, opportunities brighter. They wine and dine you. You can manage to convince yourself that you’ll make more money because Acme offers $3,500 more starting salary, or they paid a bigger bonus than HuertCo. last year. Being wooed is fun, especially if you’re over the honeymoon phase in your current job. Grass greener, etc.

I never found interviewing in an employee-friendly market fun at all. In fact, it always made me scared to death. Even though I never had any problems finding work. I’m a computer programmer, not a social gadfly.