I came across some news items that make me think of the role of employment discrimination cases in our society. Companies, like all people, tend to look out for their best self interest, be it personal, financial, or simply business. Discrimination verdicts can cause employers to change their attitudes of what makes a valid business decision.
There was a case against a large chain of restaurants whose management turned a blind eye to vile sexual harassment, eventually leading to a large plaintiff's verdict. Post-judgment, that company now recruits employees, while advertising its generous benefits and safe working conditions.
There was another company that retaliated against its employees for blowing the whistle on unlawful discrimination. Now that company is touted as “spoiling” its employees with generous perks and fair work conditions.
There was another major company, one of the largest in the world, whose managers at one time told disabled applicants, “We don't hire people like you.” Now that company is regarded around the world as a leader in workplace fairness and accommodations for the disabled.
None of these companies would have changed their practices were it not for costly discrimination verdicts and settlements.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” In reality, the force that brings about justice is a civil one, brought about by conscious action of the brave employees willing to stand up for their rights.
Which leads me to another of my favorite quotes, “People do the right thing if you make them." I am thankful for my clients, who, with uncommon courage, in some small but important way, have helped to bend the arc of history toward justice.