Federal Judges: Employer Friendly or Worker Hostile?

Bloomberg law recently surveyed how federal judges in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin rule on employment discrimination cases.

The survey indicates the four judges dismiss most employment discrimination cases long before they ever reach a jury pursuant to employer motions to dismiss or for summary judgment.

According to Bloomberg:

  • Employment lawsuits are dismissed by Eastern District of Wisconsin judges shortly after they are filed 40.5 percent of the time. Only six in 10 employment cases proceed to an exchange of evidence and pre-trial motions.  In a motion to dismiss, the employer argues the lawsuit is baseless.
  • The judges threw out 54.5 percent of the surviving employment lawsuits pursuant to a motion for summary judgment on the eve of trial, after evidence was exchanged by the parties, This type of motion argues there is no material fact in dispute and the plaintiff has no chance of winning a trial. The judge effectively decides the case, foreclosing plaintiffs from examining witnesses or presenting evidence before a jury.

Why are employment discrimination lawsuits dismissed at a higher rate?

Of the four judges,  Judge Lynn S. Adelman was most employer friendly. He granted summary judgment in whole or in part in 76.1 percent of his cases. He granted full summary judgment in 59.2 percent of his 71 rulings; partial summary judgment in 16.9 percent; and he denied an employer’s motion for summary judgment 23.9 percent of the time.

Judge Adelman granted summary judgement less often when all lawsuits were counted and not just employment cases. He granted summary judgment in full 48.3 percent of the time; partial summary judgment 16.8 percent of the time; and he denied the employer’s motion 34.9 percent of the time. In other words, he granted the employer’s motion for summary judgment in whole or in part 65.1 percent of the time.

Judge Adelman granted summary judgment in discrimination cases in whole/part 76.1 percent of the time.

Bloomberg concludes the Wisconsin court’s handling of motions to dismiss and for summary judgment is consistent with a pattern found in five other federal district courts that Bloomberg has surveyed  elsewhere in the country. The survey is based on a review by Bloomberg Law of rulings made between Jan. 1, 2007, and July 8, 2018.

The Milwaukee / Green Bay area is headquarters to several international employers, including Harley-Davidson USA , Johnson Controls , Rockwell Automation , and ManPower Group .

Judge Adelman was nominated by President Bill Clinton to a seat on the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in 1997.

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