Sunday, October 9, 2011

Attorneys for state rest in job discrimination case

A judge's decision still could be months away

Iowa lawyers rested the state's case on Thursday, inching a multimillion-dollar, class-action discrimination lawsuit closer to resolution after four years in the Polk County court system and four weeks of a statistics-laden trial.

Attorneys from both sides are scheduled to meet with Judge Robert Blink today to determine the coming schedule for the case of Pippen vs. State of Iowa, a lawsuit alleging that the state essentially failed to police its hiring bureaucracy and allowed racial bias to affect decades of hiring and promotion decisions in nearly 40 agencies and departments.

Blink's decision in the case, which may be months away, could be worth as much as $70 million, according to plaintiff-produced estimates about the money lost by African-Americans who missed out on state government jobs or promotions.

Lawyers have estimated that the case, which originally was filed in 2007, involves as many as 6,000 blacks who filed unsuccessful job applications dating to July 2003.

Both sides are scheduled to meet with the judge to make certain that they've assembled electronic copies of all the voluminous records, reports and depositions that have been cited during the monthlong trial.

Lawyers also will discuss a schedule for swapping legal briefs before Blink declares the evidence officially submitted.

There will be no oral closing arguments, the judge said Thursday.

"Frankly, given the complexity of the law and the evidence, I think it would be more succinct and effective if it were in writing," Blink said in court.

Iowa lawyers rested the state's case Thursday afternoon after plaintiffs took a full day to cross-examine Robert Miller, a Carnegie Mellon University professor who credited a racial difference in job hunting strategy for statistical gaps in the success of black vs. white job applications.

Professor Mark Killingsworth, a Rutgers University labor economist, previously had testified for the plaintiffs that blacks seeking jobs in Iowa's state government are statistically less likely to get interviews, less likely to get hired and, if they do get hired, are likely to learn less money than their white peers.

According to Miller, that's because blacks on average file more job applications than whites and seem to prefer a shotgun approach instead of the more targeted approach of whites.

By Jeff Eckhoff


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