New Study Details the Cost of Sexual Harassment and Employment Discrimination

Everyone knows that sexual harassment and other forms of employment discrimination are a big problem. How big are we actually talking? According to one recent study, at least a $2.7 billion problem.

That figure comes from a recent study conducted by Good Jobs First (GJF), a Washington-based public policy center. It represents the aggregate amount of “disclosed penalties” paid out since the year 2000 by the largest businesses in the United States, i.e. public companies listed on the Fortune 1000 and Fortune Global 500, and the Forbes list of America's Largest Private Companies.

Approximately $2 billion of this figure comes from 234 private lawsuits filed over the past two decades, according to GJF. The remainder comes from actions initiated by government agencies, primarily the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Within the private-lawsuit figure, the majority of that ($1.7 billion) resulted from class actions rather than individual lawsuits.

GJF also broke down sexual harassment and employment discrimination penalties paid by company. The single largest offender was Bank of America (BoA), which paid out over $210 million over the course of eight separate cases. GJF noted the bulk of these penalties were actually assessed against Merrill Lynch, which “BoA was pressured by regulators to take over” during the 2008 financial crisis. The single largest penalty in that group was a $160 million settlement that resolved a race discrimination class action in 2013.

Three other companies have paid out over $100 million in discrimination penalties since 2000 according to GJF: Coca-Cola, Novartis, and Morgan Stanley. Coca-Cola actually paid out just over $192 million, largely as the result of a 2001 race discrimination lawsuit that briefly resulted in a “worldwide boycott of Coke products.” Novartis paid out roughly $183 million to settle two gender discrimination cases, the most recent one in 2010. Morgan Stanley paid out over $150 million in six cases, including a $54 million settlement with the EEOC over gender discrimination claims.

Interestingly, none of these companies actually had the most number of penalties. That distinction goes to Walmart, which resolved 27 separate discrimination cases during the period reviewed by GJF. The other companies with a double-digit number of penalties were AT&T (16), FedEx (15), UPS (15), Tyson Foods (14), and Sears (11).

Breaking down these cases by category, GJF found that race discrimination was the most common, representing $1.1 billion in total penalties. Gender discrimination was the next most common, representing just over $1 billion. Three other categories yielded over $100 million in total penalties — age discrimination, disability discrimination, and sexual harassment.

It is important to note that GJF's survey was based on publicly available court records. Many more employment discrimination cases are settled privately, so those unknown figures are not included in any of the results described above.

Speak with a New York Employment Discrimination Lawyer Today

Despite the costs, many New York employers continue to violate federal and state employment discrimination laws. If you have been a victim of such discrimination, you need to speak with a qualified New York City employment attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar to schedule a consultation with a member of our team today.