Layoffs and Litigation

by Paul Oyer and Scott Schaefer

The RAND Journal of Economics, 31, Summer 2000, pp. 345-358

ABSTRACT

We study a possible link between two recent U.S. labor market trends: increased wrongful termination litigation and more frequent mass layoffs. We argue that if workers are more likely to sue when fired than when dismissed as part of a layoff, then increases in the expected costs to firms of such suits should induce substitution toward layoffs and away from individual firings. Our empirical analysis supports this assertion, showing that shortly after the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, the methods of displacement changed differently by race but changes to the overall level of displacement were consistent across races.