Dateline: February, 2007, Issue 2

How do women and minority plaintiffs fare in employment cases tried to juries?

Oppenheimer (2003) analyzed every employment law jury verdict in California in 1998 and 1999, a total of 389 cases, and concluded that women and minorities have low success rates.

In the 389 jury trials studied, juries found for plaintiffs just over half the time (53%), with a median award of $249,000. Of plaintiffs' verdicts, only 18% were over $1 million, and these were primarily in sexual harassment and contract cases.

Cases were hardest to win when brought by non-whites (and particularly black women) alleging race discrimination, women alleging sex discrimination (except for sexual harassment), and women over 40 alleging age discrimination. Specifically:

By contrast, whites suing for reverse race discrimination and men suing for sexual harassment by other men, won every case tried to a jury.

The researcher concluded that women and minorities are substantially disadvantaged in bringing age, race and sex discrimination claims, with the most likely explanation being juror bias.

Source Oppenheimer, D. B. (2003). Verdicts matter: An empirical study of California employment discrimination and wrongful discharge jury verdicts reveal low success rates for women and minorities. U C Davis Law Review, 37, pp. 511-566.