Where’s the Civil Justice?

A one-two punch makes it very difficult for workers to combat the epidemic of workplace bullying and abuse in the United States.

For one thing, unlike many industrialized countries, there is no law or regulatory scheme in the United States prohibiting workplace bullying.

With respect to the laws that do exist and which might offer workers some protection, the American civil justice system is simply out of reach for many Americans.

The World Justice Institute’s 2011 study of legal systems across the globe shows the United States ranks far behind other countries on providing an accessible legal system to the public.

The group’s report,  Rule of Law Index, analyzed nine different factors of legal systems around the world to gauge how well they function and serve each country’s residents.

In assuring access to the legal system, the U.S. ranked 21st out of the 66 countries included in the study. The U.S.’s lowest scores came from the “Access to Legal Counsel” and “Access and Affordability of Civil Courts.”

When the World Justice Institute’s study compared the U.S. to 23 other countries with similar average incomes, the U.S. ranked 20th, coming in ahead of only Croatia, Poland, and Italy. The “high income” countries (like the U.S.) with the most accessible civil justice systems are Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway, Estonia, Austria and Japan, Belgium and the United Kingdom.  (So, Estonia beats us again!)

In the area of affordability of legal counsel, the U.S. ranked 52nd out of the 66 countries studied. “Legal assistance is expensive or unavailable, and the gap between rich and poor individuals in terms of both actual use of and satisfaction with the civil courts system remains significant,” the report’s authors said.

There also is a general perception in the U.S. that ethnic minorities and foreigners receive unequal treatment from the police and the courts.

The bottom line is that American workers have a much more difficult time than workers in other countries accessing the civil justice system to prevent employers from engaging in discrimination or workplace bullying.

The World Justice Project (WJP) is a multinational and multidisciplinary effort to strengthen the rule of law throughout the world. The WJP Rule of Law Index  is a quantitative assessment tool designed to offer a detailed and comprehensive picture of the extent to which countries adhere to the rule of law in practice. Data comes from a global poll of the general public and detailed questionnaires administered to local experts.

About pgbarnes
Attorney at Law

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