Ending Sex and Race Discrimination in the Workplace: Legal Interventions That Push the Envelope

Source: Ariane Hegewisch, Cynthia Deitch and Evelyn Murphy, Institute for Women’s Policy Research, 2011

Race and sex discrimination in employment, covering recruitment, pay and compensation, training and promotion, was made illegal by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Successful employment discrimination lawsuits may result in individual relief, such as monetary compensation for individual victims of discrimination and injunctive relief, such as changes to the employer’s human resource management policies and practices aimed at creating a workplace free of discrimination for all workers. Very few employment discrimination lawsuits, however, actually result in injunctive relief. Those that include injunctive relief most commonly are court-supervised pre-trial settlements called consent decrees.

This report draws on the IWPR/WAGE Consent Decree Database to analyze the injunctive relief awarded in 502 sex and/or race discrimination settlements that became effective between 2000 and 2008. We find that some consent decrees provide innovative and far-reaching remedies to counter previous sources of inequality, whereas others require little more than posting notices and conducting diversity awareness training. The Database includes a sample of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) consent decrees, and all publicly accessible U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and privately litigated class-action consent decrees. In addition, the report examines detailed case studies to show how injunctive relief was negotiated and implemented in particularly innovative consent decrees.

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