The settlement payments don’t come from traditional insurance; the state is self-insured for these cases. That means the cash comes directly from the state budget.
David Webbert, an Augusta lawyer who specializes in employment cases – including representing state employees – doubts training alone would solve the problem. “No amount of civil rights training can overcome discriminatory attitudes at the top of an organization,” he said. But, he added, “The state could greatly reduce lawsuits and money settlements — and improve workplace productivity — by basing the evaluation and promotion of managers in a significant part on their record of promoting civil rights and eliminating harassment and discrimination in the workplace.”
The settlement agreements — legally binding documents signed by the state and the employee — are often written in a way that prevents full public disclosure. For example, in 34 of the 45 cases, in return for the settlement, employees and the state agreed not to disclose the terms of the agreements.The secrecy goes even further in the 21 cases that have non-disparagement clauses. Typically, they state, “Both parties agree that they will not disparage the other.”
However, the Human Rights Commission and court files — public documents — often contain some details of the cases, although the Attorney General’s office redacts from the commission reports the names of third parties under state confidentiality laws. That means, for example, that the names of supervisors are not public.