Employers under court order can’t count on courts to bypass special master — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Employers under court order can’t count on courts to bypass special master

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If your organization is operating under a strict federal court order to correct past discrimination, be aware of this reality: The federally appointed special master has vast power to decide whether discrimination is still occurring and to fix it.

It’s unlikely you will be able to move a current case directly into federal court for a quick dismissal. Your best bet is to develop a close working relationship with the special master. It’s the price you pay for past discrimination.

Recent case: The city of Bridgeport, Conn., is under a series of court orders to eliminate and remedy past discrimination on the part of its police department. Going back to 1972, police officers have brought a series of discrimination challenges. In 1983, a federal court issued a remedial order, appointing a special master to oversee the police department.

The order, still in effect, is an attempt to resolve many outstanding discrimination claims, including the alleged use of racial quotas, tests that discriminated against minorities and persistent slurs and racist comments by members of the department.

Recently, a black clerical worker complained to the special master that she was being discriminated against. The police department tried to get the case into federal court, perhaps hoping for a quick dismissal.

But the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to the special master to allow him to decide whether he can best handle the case. That’s true even though civilian employees weren’t specifically covered by the 1983 decree. (Bridgeport Guardians, et al., v. Delmonte, et al., No. 06-4764, 2nd Cir., 2008)

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