The overwhelming majority of American corporations listed in the Fortune 500 have settled at least one employment discrimination or sexual harassment lawsuit, according to a corporate industry study by a national accountability and development think-tank. Good Jobs First reports these included both individual employment lawsuits as well as class action claims, with 189 large firms like Bank of America and Coca-Cola and Walmart paying out nearly $2 billion in settlements and penalties since 2000 – roughly 35 percent of those stemming from private lawsuits (as opposed to those filed by the EEOC or Federal Contract Compliance Programs). Private lawsuits accounted for 79 percent of the $2 billion in payouts. Those are only the cases in which settlements were disclosed.
The big business that has paid the most in disclosed employment discrimination claims is Bank of America, which has paid approximately $210 million in settlements. Coca-Cola is a close second at $200 million, Novartis in third at $183 million, Morgan & Stanley fourth at $150 million and Abercrombie & Fitch rounding out the top five at $90 million. Of the parent companies that disclosed employment lawsuit penalties, 40 percent were involved in more than one case.
Walmart had the largest number of cases, but had paid out less than the others in the last 20 years – 52 million. The study authors note this likely would have been much higher if Walmart v. Dukes, a 2011 U.S. Supreme Court case had a different outcome. In that case, a female Walmart worker filed for class certification alleging gender discrimination, alleging some 1.6 million former and current employees of the company qualified for the class. In a split 5-4 decision, the high court reversed the Ninth District’s ruling and determined the workers didn’t have enough in common for class certification. Continue reading