Sanctioned Race And Gender Bias In Tort Compensation?

For its next witness, the defense calls the distinguished  forensic economist...

“For its next witness, the defense calls the distinguished forensic economist…”

I was going to make this an ethics quiz, but there really is only one answer. The practice is ethically indefensible, and noxious too. The only question is how and why it is still occurring.

One reason may be that not enough people know about it. I certainly didn’t. Kudos to the Washington Post for shining light on a terrible, and terribly unethical, practice.

The American tort system frequently uses race and gender statistics to calculate the damages victims or their families should receive in compensation after someone is catastrophically injured or killed by another individual’s negligence or misconduct. Experts are allowed to testify regarding what a particular victim might have achieved and earned during their lives, were they not dead, or brain-damaged, or paralyzed. Race and gender are among the factors allowed into that calculation.

Writes the Post:

As a result, white and male victims often receive larger awards than people of color and women in similar cases, according to more than two dozen lawyers and forensic economists, the experts who make the calculations. These differences largely derive from projections of  how much more money individuals would have earned over their lifetimes had they not been injured – projections that take into account average earnings and employment levels by race and gender.

Continue reading

Burger King, Mary J. Blige and the Political Correctness Double-Bind

"No, let's give the fried chicken commercial to Donny Osmond. I don't think Mormons even like fried chicken..."

My theater company did a production of the Depression Era comedy “Stage Door,” about a group of young actresses  who stay in a boarding house. There are two roles for “domestics” in the play; the female of the two has quite a few lines. The director felt that it would be perpetuating a stereotype to cast African-Americans in these roles, though that is what the characters were supposed to be, so she cast white actors in both parts. The bottom line is that African-American actors were not cast because of their race, in parts written for actors of their race. No offensive stereotype..and no jobs.

This seems counter-productive and foolish to me. Another example: I was once told by the EEOC specialist at a New York law firm that he never took female associates on travel to meet with clients, because he didn’t want to be vulnerable to sexual harassment claims. “So you’re discriminating against women in your firm to avoid harassing them?” I asked. “Well, I suppose you could say that,” he replied.

Which brings us to Mary J. Blige. The singer was hired by Burger King to sing in a fried chicken commercial, and the result has been attacked as racist stereotyping by several black publications and critics. Burger King has pulled the commercial, muttering some cover-story, along with Blige, about the ad being released “prematurely.” How that would change the fact that she is singing “Crispy chicken, fresh lettuce, three cheeses with dressing!” I don’t really grasp. Anyway, Burger King has officially apologized, which, I suppose, means that just as you can’t use the term “chink in the armor” in discussing anything to do with Jeremy Lin, you can’t hire a black singer to promote fried chicken….even if a black singer wants to promote fried chicken and needs a job. Continue reading

Note to the EEOC: “Fairness” Must Not Require The Suspension of Common Sense

In the  rich and annoying category of “Official Statements and Actions That Guarantee The Death Of Affirmative Action,” we have the recent warning by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that companies using criminal records to screen out job applicants might run afoul of anti-discrimination laws and be illegal because such a policy would have the effect of disproportionately disqualifying blacks and Hispanics. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce: Rand Paul

The demise of the Tea Party movement may well come when it actually has to put individual candidates before the electorate and the media to carry its message. At least, that is what the ascendancy of Rand Paul, now the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in Kentucky after his primary victory this week, portends. Paul, before his first week as the nominee is up, has managed to expose himself as unacceptably challenged by the task of reconciling the deceptively simplistic philosophy of libertarians with real world ethics. Specifically, he has declared that he does not support the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s requirement that private businesses  serve all members of the public, irrespective of race, nationality, religion and sexual orientation. This position Rand haltingly clung to despite withering interviews on National Public Radio and MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show. You can see the latter, in two parts, here and here. Continue reading