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Law Offices of Dan A. Atkerson

Could Bipartisan Legislation Make Employment Lawsuits Fairer for Minorities?

By Dan Atkerson on December 12, 2016

Woman in an interviewA group of politicians from both major parties are pushing for a bill that might help make employment lawsuits fairer for women and minorities. It’s called the Fair Calculations Act, and it aims to eliminate practices that proponents believe lead to unfair outcomes in civil cases.

How Does the Legislation Work?

Recently, academic research has shown that courts ruling on civil cases rely on pay averages based on race and gender to determine how much to award in damages to plaintiffs. The proponents of this bill believe that this violates the spirit of civil rights and reinforces unequal pay based on gender and race.

To resolve this problem, the new law would prohibit federal courts from considering race, gender and other demographic factors when making their decisions. It would also work through the Labor Department to encourage the state courts to do the same. If passed, this law would change the way that civil cases, including many employment lawsuits, are handled.

Can the Legislation Pass?

The bill is sponsored by both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, but still faces fierce opposition. Critics of the bill think that the focus on race and gender is a ploy to score political points, and that the proposed changes are not pragmatic.

Experts say that the bill will likely get referred to Senate and House Judiciary Committees. From there, lawmakers seem to disagree about the bill’s chances of success. Some supporters say they are only advocating for the change on principle, while others believe there will be enough support from both parties to get the bill passed.

In the meantime, it’s crucial to keep an eye on how civil cases are handled. Civil lawsuits are one of the most powerful tools that employees have to assert their rights against injustices such as racial and gender discrimination. Any change to the way that courts award damages could have a meaningful and lasting impact.

Dan A. Atkerson is a Dallas employment lawyer who fights on behalf of victims of racial discrimination, gender discrimination and other forms of workplace injustice.

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