May 12, 1997
Lawyers and employees have seen the huge amounts of money that can be made by suing rather than working. As a result, such lawsuits have now reached record levels -- 23,000 in 1996, and rising fast. The number of discrimination suits has more than doubled from the 10,771 filed in 1992. And that's just the federal cases, not including those cases filed under state laws.
These lawsuits come in a wide variety of flavors -- discrimination based on gender, race, handicap, or age are the leading contenders in the race for early retirement. The Texaco settlement of $176 million has done its part to spur more suits based on alleged racial discrimination.
The big winner is sexual harassment, with over 15,000 complaints filed last year. The patron saint of these litigants must be Naval aviator Paula Coughlin, who was awarded five million dollars for being slapped on her backside as part of the Tailhook scandal.
Who do we thank for this great transfer of wealth from those who work to those who litigate? In large part, the credit goes to those who passed the 1991 Civil Rights Act, which allowed compensatory and punitive damages for "stress and humiliation." Another favorite law of trial lawyers is the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is now being interpreted as covering mentally ill workers as well as the physically handicapped.
The beauty of these laws is that they provide a suitable pretext for anyone to sue. An attractive young woman who is asked for a date by her boss... the older man who is upset that the young woman got the promotion he coveted... the person in a wheelchair who is sure he could have done the job better than the young woman or the old man... the office manager who became clinically depressed watching the whole spectacle.
Some say we are fortunate to live in a time of peace. They obviously don't work in one of the thousands of offices that are becoming battlegrounds in the great war for discrimination compensation.
(Source: Washington Post.)
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