As employers downsize in these tough economic conditions, some employees are being let go via “reduction in force” (RIF). What can you do if you believe your company made RIF decisions based on discriminatory factors such as age or race? Statistical evidence can be helpful in building your court case, says a recent article from Ramona Paetzold and a colleague, which appeared in the June 2009 Harvard Law Review forums section.

Paetzold is a professor of management and a research fellow at Mays Business School at Texas A&M University. Her article, “Statistics is a plural word,” appeared in the Law Review as a rebuttal to an argument made in a previous issue about the limitations of regression modeling for proving causation in civil rights cases like the one mentioned above.

Ramona Paetzold
Paetzold

“Some kinds of cases require statistical evidence as proof. Without it you could not establish discrimination,” said Paetzold. “Other kinds of cases will only use it for supporting evidence of discrimination—the primary evidence has to be more specific to the employee who is suing, such as comparing the employee’s treatment with how other employees were treated.”

The article focuses on how much and what kind of statistical evidence should be used by employees in proving employment discrimination against their employers—or conversely, by employers to defend themselves in employment discrimination suits.

“Employers need to understand the ways in which statistical evidence can be used in these lawsuits,” said Paetzold. “They also benefit from knowing some of the types of statistical methods that can be used to provide statistical evidence.”

Paetzold coauthored the article for Harvard Law Review with Steven L. Willborn, dean and professor of law at the University of Nebraska College of Law. She and Willborn also collaborated on the book The Statistics of Discrimination.

Paetzold specializes in human resource management, with research interests at the intersection of human resource management and employment law. Her work encompasses psycho-legal aspects of sexual harassment, disabilities and accommodations, and workplace violence. Her research has appeared in outlets such as the Academy of Management Review, American Business Law Journal, North Carolina Law Review, Employee Rights and Employment Policy Journal, and Journal of Applied Social Psychology.

She has served as senior articles editor for the American Business Law Journal and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Legal Studies Education. Her primary teaching responsibilities at Mays include courses in employment law, employment discrimination law, and research methods.