Rights On Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality by Ellen BerreyRights On Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality by Ellen Berrey

Rights On Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates Inequality

byEllen Berrey, Robert L. Nelson, Laura Beth Nielsen

Paperback | June 22, 2017

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Gerry Handley faced years of blatant race-based harassment before he filed a complaint against his employer: racist jokes, signs reading “KKK” in his work area, and even questions from coworkers as to whether he had sex with his daughter as slaves supposedly did. He had an unusually strong case, with copious documentation and coworkers’ support, and he settled for $50,000, even winning back his job. But victory came at a high cost. Legal fees cut into Mr. Handley’s winnings, and tensions surrounding the lawsuit poisoned the workplace. A year later, he lost his job due to downsizing by his company. Mr. Handley exemplifies the burden plaintiffs bear in contemporary civil rights litigation. In the decades since the civil rights movement, we’ve made progress, but not nearly as much as it might seem.

On the surface, America’s commitment to equal opportunity in the workplace has never been clearer. Virtually every company has antidiscrimination policies in place, and there are laws designed to protect these rights across a range of marginalized groups. But, as Ellen Berrey, Robert L. Nelson, and Laura Beth Nielsen compellingly show, this progressive vision of the law falls far short in practice. When aggrieved individuals turn to the law, the adversarial character of litigation imposes considerable personal and financial costs that make plaintiffs feel like they’ve lost regardless of the outcome of the case. Employer defendants also are dissatisfied with the system, often feeling “held up” by what they see as frivolous cases. And even when the case is resolved in the plaintiff’s favor, the conditions that gave rise to the lawsuit rarely change. In fact, the contemporary approach to workplace discrimination law perversely comes to reinforce the very hierarchies that antidiscrimination laws were created to redress.
Based on rich interviews with plaintiffs, attorneys, and representatives of defendants and an original national dataset on case outcomes, Rights on Trial reveals the fundamental flaws of workplace discrimination law and offers practical recommendations for how we might better respond to persistent patterns of discrimination.

About The Author

Ellen Berrey is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto and an affiliated scholar of the American Bar Foundation. She is the author of The Enigma of Diversity. Robert L. Nelson is professor of sociology and law at Northwestern University and the MacCrate Research Chair at the American Bar Foundation. Laura Beth Ni...
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Details & Specs

Title:Rights On Trial: How Workplace Discrimination Law Perpetuates InequalityFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:June 22, 2017Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022646685X

ISBN - 13:9780226466859

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Tables and Figures
Online Appendix

Part I. Introduction

Chapter 1. Introduction: Putting Rights on Trial
Chapter 2. Fifty Years of Employment Civil Rights
Chapter 3. A Quantitative Analysis of Employment Civil Rights Litigation: Case Characteristics, Plaintiff Characteristics, and Legal Outcomes

Part II. Narratives of Employment Civil Rights Litigation

Chapter 4. Workplace Wars: The Origins of Employment Civil Rights Lawsuits in the Workplace
Chapter 5. Representation and Race: Finding a Lawyer, Screening Clients, and the Production of Racial Disparities
Chapter 6. Representing Rights: Lawyer-Client Relationships
Chapter 7. Right Right, Wrong Plaintiff: Adversarial Conflict and the Disavowal of Discrimination
Chapter 8. Win, Lose, or Draw: Perspectives on Case Outcomes

Part III. Conclusion

Chapter 9. Stereotyping and the Reinscription of Race, Sex, Disability, and Age Hierarchies
Chapter 10. The Voices of Employment Civil Rights

Acknowledgments
Appendix
Notes

Editorial Reviews

"Rights on Trial is a brilliant, shocking indictment of our legal system. Berrey, Nelson, and Nielsen use quantitative data on discrimination suits and in-depth interviews with plaintiffs, employers, and lawyers to detail why the system is fatally flawed. People who face discrimination at work rarely complain, and when they do, they don’t find coworkers to join them or lawyers to represent them. Few win anything, and those who do are forced from their jobs and often end up destitute. Riveting interviews show that plaintiffs who were hopeful that the law would protect them feel disrespected by the courts and lose faith in our form of government. Meanwhile, failed lawsuits encourage employers to believe that their workplaces are free of discrimination."