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Part II: Do lawsuits improve workplace gender and race equality?

Regular readers of our Milwaukee employment law blog will recall a recent post about research on workplace discrimination lawsuits published in the American Journal of Sociology. Researchers analyzed the results of 171 race and gender discrimination lawsuits to determine whether the litigation resulted in improvements in the numbers of black women, black men and white women in management.

The bottom line: yes, the lawsuits do improve female and minority representation, though the raw numbers might have left some people disappointed. Let’s dive back into the research.

As you might recall, the data showed what appeared to be modest gains in management for white women, black women and black men when comparing the year before a discrimination lawsuit to the three years after the suit was resolved:

  • 2.1 to 2.3: percentage of black women before and after a lawsuit
  • 3.0 to 3.4: percentage of black men before and after a lawsuit
  • 18.7 to 21.8: percentage of white women before and after a lawsuit

In absolute terms, those gains might disappoint. But the researchers point out that the improvements are statistically significant: there were 10 percent more black women in management after the lawsuits and 13 percent more black men and 16 percent more white women.

Researchers said that conditions of the resolutions – whether the resolutions involved monetary compensation or media or shareholder attention – mattered considerably. They had in past work noted that stock prices of companies dropped by an average of about one percent in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of a race or gender discrimination lawsuit.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, negative stock returns led to greater increases in diversity. Why? Shareholders put pressure on management to fix the company’s image.

The research shows that employment law litigation works. Lives and careers are improved by workplace justice and long-term gains in gender and race diversity are achieved as well.

If a Milwaukee employer has discriminated against you on the basis of your gender or race, please contact the law office of Alan C. Olson and Associates to talk over your options.

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