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News of large groups of plaintiffs suing corporate employers are common, like those cases against WalMart which have received wide media attention. But the American Bar Foundation has issued a study which shows that the collective claims are uncommon and that the vast majority of employee discrimination lawsuits are pursued by individuals. Cases involving multiple plaintiffs, class actions and representation by the EEOC or a public interest law firm are extraordinarily rare.

The American Bar Foundation study, Individual Justice or Collective Legal Mobilization? Employment Discrimination in the Post Civil Rights United States, was published in the June issue of the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies. The study reveals that only 6 percent of the plaintiffs in federal cases filed between 1987 and 2003, made it to trial. And at that point, the plaintiff had a one-in-three chance of winning.

More than 40 percent of plaintiffs either have their cases dismissed or lose at summary judgment. The other half are likely to settle very early in the process, typically for "nuisance value" settlements. A surprising 20 percent of the plaintiffs are not represented by lawyers.

The American Bar Foundation is a leading research institute for the empirical study of law. For more information on the study, visit

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