Why You Want a Consent Judgment in Your Employment Discrimination Case

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When you hear about a big employment discrimination case settling in the news it is often through a “consent judgment”. Find out what that means, what it does for employers and employees, and why you might want a consent judgment in your employment discrimination case.

In this blog post I will explain what a “consent judgment” is within the context of employment discrimination. I will describe the kind of relief that can be included in a consent judgment and how the ongoing nature of these agreements hold employers accountable even after you have gotten your financial relief and moved on.

Consent Judgments Signal the End of Employment Discrimination Cases

Life at work has become unbearable. Maybe you have been the target of sexual harassment, maybe you’ve been passed over for promotion because of your gender or gender identity, maybe your workspace has become filled with racial slurs or religiously offensive jokes. Maybe you have even been fired for objecting to discrimination at work.

Whatever the reason, you have found yourself facing employment discrimination and have turned to a lawyer for help. You’ve worked with your employment discrimination attorney to gather all your evidence and prepare your case. You’ve filed a complaint and begun the long, time consuming process of negotiating, when suddenly, finally, you have a deal. Your lawyer contacts you to ask you to come and review the consent judgment, and that means your employment discrimination case is as an end.

What is a Consent Judgment?

A consent judgment is a court order signed by the judge and the parties (or their attorneys) that resolves a lawsuit. They are used in everything from collections cases to divorces to employment discrimination cases. Ultimately, they mean that everyone involved in the case (including the judge) thinks that the terms contained in the order are an acceptable (if not ideal) way to resolve the case.

In an employment discrimination case, a consent judgment is a powerful thing. It can include many different kinds of relief, including:

  • Money awards to the employee for lost wages and other harm done by the employer’s behavior
  • “Declarative” judgments specifically saying that the employer’s behavior was wrong
  • “Injunctive” relief changing the way the employer behaves in the future

Each of those categories can include a variety of different relief, depending on what happened, and what needs to change.

How is a Consent Judgment Different from a Settlement Agreement?

If you file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or if your employment discrimination case goes to facilitated mediation, you may be asked to sign a different document called a settlement agreement. At their core, settlement agreements and consent judgments do the same thing: they resolve a civil lawsuit and state the terms that everyone will agree to.

There are reasons why an employee may prefer a private settlement agreement to a formal consent judgment entered by the court, such as privacy, ongoing relationships within the company, and the speed of resolution. But in other cases, a consent judgment is good for employees facing employment discrimination.

Why is a Consent Judgment Good for Employees Facing Employment Discrimination?

In an employment discrimination case, a consent judgment is often seen as the stronger cousin to the settlement agreement. This is because, unlike settlement agreements, consent judgments:

  • Are formal court orders
  • Can be enforced through the court system
  • Can give employees collections options to collect money if an employer fails to pay
  • Often include public statements of fault or wrongdoing
  • Can include on-going, independent monitoring to be certain the employer keeps its promises

Sometimes, improving the conditions at your workplace is more important than the money you receive in a settlement. You may know of other employees who face similar treatment but who can’t speak up for themselves. Maybe you want to prevent others from having to face the same situations you did. Settlement in an employment discrimination case could include promises by the employer to:

  • Adopt new anti-discrimination policies
  • Create confidential reporting procedures
  • Train employees, managers, and supervisors about discrimination at work
  • Respond appropriately when complaints arise

When these terms are included in settlement agreements, they can sometimes be difficult to enforce, especially when those agreements also contain non-disclosure or confidentiality clauses. The ongoing monitoring included in many consent judgments gives employees who settle employment discrimination cases the confidence to know that someone is watching to make certain the employer makes the changes it promised. And the public nature of a consent judgment means the employer’s reputation depends on them keeping their word.

At Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, our employment discrimination and sexual harassment attorneys know how to make consent judgments work to our clients' advantage. If you have faced an employment discrimination at work and are considering a settlement, we can help you review the language, so you know what you are getting, and how that agreement can be enforced. Contact Eisenberg & Baum, LLP, today to talk to an employment discrimination attorney.

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