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Examining the Impact of Consent Decree Remedies on Sex and Race Discrimination in the Workplace

IWPR, in collaboration with The WAGE Project, Inc., examined consent decree remedies for sex and race discrimination in the workplace. Consent decrees are court approved settlements of law suits where the defendant does not admit guilt but agrees to the implementation of a set of measures to remedy and prevent future occurrence of potentially unlawful practices. In employment discrimination cases, in addition to individual relief (such as monetary damages for the person(s) who brought the discrimination claim), consent decrees typically mandate employers to introduce policies that prevent future discrimination such as sexual harassment training, the introduction of new grievance procedures, supervisory training or revised performance management, and reward schemes.

The IWPR/WAGE Consent Decree Project developed a searchable database of over 500 consent decrees that became effective between the years 2000 and 2008 and were negotiated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, or private law firms in class action suits. Consent decrees provide strong example of the day-to-day discrimination that continues to keep many women out of better paying jobs.

The project also studied  the negotiation and implementation of a small number of highly innovative consent decrees in order to describe best practices for using consent decrees to improve working conditions, and eradicate discrimination from the workplace based on race and sex. The project concluded that consent decrees in employment discrimination can be an important catalyst for change by creating specific mechanisms for greater transparency, accountability and fairness in the workplace—such high impact decrees were found to be much more likely in private class action cases than in cases litigated by public enforcement agencies.

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