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Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Despite laws protecting people from workplace discrimination on the basis of race, gender, age, religion and sexual orientation — including last week's Supreme Court victory for LGBTQ workers — when it comes to actually holding firms accountable, the odds are stacked against workers.

Why it matters: The U.S. workplace is still rampant with discrimination, but the bulk of it is going unchecked as companies have figured out how to keep themselves out of court.

What they're saying: "If you look at the number of white people in the C-suite or attrition rates for African Americans or wage disparities, there's been very little change in the past few decades," says Linda Friedman, a Chicago lawyer who represented 700 workers in a race-discrimination lawsuit against Merrill Lynch in 2013.

  • "In my opinion, the most significant reason is there is no oversight," she says. "Entire industries have taken themselves out of the sight of the law," primarily through mandatory arbitration clauses.

By the numbers: Nearly 70% of U.S. employers with 5,000 or more workers have mandatory arbitration policies, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

  • "Under such agreements, workers whose rights are violated — for example, through employment discrimination or sexual harassment — can’t pursue their claims in court but must submit to arbitration procedures that research shows overwhelmingly favor employers," EPI's Alexander J.S. Colvin writes.
  • In total, around 60 million American workers don't have access to courts due to mandatory arbitration.

But even at firms that don't have such policies, pursuing discrimination cases is difficult, Friedman says.

  • "These cases are hard to prosecute even if you get to court. So much effort is spent in defeating the lawsuits," she says.
  • "It’s a real act of courage and resolve to file one of these lawsuits in the first place." Future employers can Google search you and quickly figure out if you were a plaintiff in a discrimination case — and that could work against you in the hiring process.

Rare counterexamples: Wells Fargo dropped its mandatory arbitration clause for sexual harassment claims in February, and, the same month, a former employee of PNC bank who said she was sexually assaulted by a male customer was awarded $2.4 million by a New Jersey jury.

Go deeper: Women with career gaps are being tapped for talent pool

Go deeper

Businesses face "take home" COVID-19 lawsuits

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

New peril for employers: Wrongful death "take home" lawsuits from the coronavirus, using the prior examples of asbestos.

Why it matters: Employers enjoy legal protections and liability caps under workers' compensation laws, but these lawsuits could skirt those protections, Reuters reports.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

1 dead after pickup truck hits Pride spectators in Florida

Police investigate the scene where a pickup truck drove into a crowd of people at a Pride parade in Wilton Manors, Florida, on Saturday. Photo: Jason Koerner/Getty Images

A driver in a pickup truck hit spectators at a Pride festival in Wilton Manors, Florida, killing a man and leaving another person hospitalized Saturday, authorities said.

Details: Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis told reporters police had "apprehended the driver" and that the vehicle missed a parade car carrying Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) "by inches."

Updated 6 hours ago - Sports

Uganda Olympic team member tests positive for COVID in Tokyo

The Uganda National boxing team's Catherine Nanziri (L) and others arrive for check-in at Entebbe international airport in Wakiso, Uganda on Friday, ahead of their departure to participate in the Tokyo Olympic Games. Photo: Badru Katumba/AFP via Getty Images

A Uganda Olympic team member tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Japan late Saturday, officials said.

Why it matters: Japan's government has faced criticism for vowing to host the Tokyo Games next month as coronavirus cases rise. The Ugandan team is the second to arrive in Japan after the Australian women's softball players, and this is the first COVID-19 infection detected among the Olympic athletes, Al Jazeera notes.