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Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law & Silicon Valley Community Foundation Release Report Highlighting Discrimination in Civil Damage Awards

For Immediate Release July 26, 2018

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law released a report regarding the discrimination in civil damage awards on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender. The report was made possible with a grant from Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF) and critical pro bono research assistance from WilmerHale.

The report, titled “How Race, Ethnicity, and Gender Impact Your Life’s Worth: Discrimination in Civil Damage Awards,” addresses the use of race/ethnicity and gender in determining future income earnings in wrongful death or personal injury actions and how this practice perpetuates discrimination by reinforcing pay disparities and failing to account for future progress.

“There are no federal or state laws prohibiting the discriminatory use of demographic data to predict future lost earnings in the calculation of civil damage awards in tort actions, inextricably tying these awards to persistent racial and gender pay disparities,” said Dariely Rodriguez, director of the Economic Justice Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  “We must consider the socio-economic barriers preventing people of color and women from receiving parity in civil damage awards. That starts by states prioritizing commonsense legislative reforms that prohibit the discriminatory calculation of future income earnings in tort damages awards on the basis of a person’s race, ethnicity- and/or gender.”

In civil tort actions, the task for the trier of fact is to calculate a fair award to compensate for the loss of life or to “make the person whole again” after the injury.  In calculating this award, approximately 44% of economists said they consider race when calculating future earnings income and 92% reported they consider gender. Since African Americans, Latinxs, and women in the U.S. earn less than whites and men, the damages they receive are substantially lower than those received by their counterparts.  This harmful practice not only deprives women and people of color but also their families and communities of fair compensation.

“This report clearly shows that courtrooms are discriminating based on gender and race when it comes to awarding damages, and it’s appalling,” said Gina Dalma, vice president of government relations for Silicon Valley Community Foundation, which funded the report. “Legislators need to stop this little-known form of institutionalized injustice as soon as possible.”

Though this is a significant issue, and one of the only instances where court-sanctioned discrimination is allowed to occur, very few state or federal reforms have been proposed and none have been passed.  The report urges state legislators to pass laws prohibiting the discriminatory use of wage and earnings tables delineated by race and gender in the calculation of damages so that women and people of color receive parity in civil damage awards.

The report can be accessed online here.

About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination.  Now in its 55th year, the Lawyers’ Committee is continuing its quest to “Move America Toward Justice.” The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and voting rights. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org

About the Economic Justice Project:

The Economic Justice Project (EJP) seeks to address persisting inequality and high poverty rates faced by African American and other minority communities. EJP brings challenges to all forms of racial, national origin, and sex-based discrimination in the workplace, both private and public, including discrimination by federal, state, and local agencies. EJP also brings litigation seeking to lift the employment barriers faced by individuals with criminal histories who are seeking to reintegrate into their communities. EJP litigates class action lawsuits, with the crucial assistance of law firms, on behalf of minorities and women. EJP works with government officials and Congress to promote reforms that can reduce poverty and expand access to economic opportunity to underserved communities.

Contact: Derrick Robinson | [email protected] | 202-662-8327

 

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