TALLAHASSEE – A new study by the Florida Commission on Human Relations, the state’s leading anti-discrimination agency, has found that the Commission saved Florida businesses $60.7 million over the past five years by preventing costly litigation in hundreds of discrimination cases. The Commission’s mediation services produced outcomes that typically cost businesses 89 percent less than if the cases had ended up in court, figures show.
The study reveals that the Commission (FCHR) provided Florida with an average return on investment of 144 percent over the past five years. In other words, for every $1.00 provided by taxpayers to fund FCHR’s annual operations, the Commission returned an additional $1.44 in benefits to Florida businesses through avoided costs associated with discrimination lawsuits.
“We’re extremely proud of the Commission’s record resolving cases that allege discrimination,” said Interim Co-Director Michelle Wilson. “While ensuring the rights of individuals is of paramount importance, the less money and time a business has to spend defending itself in court, the more that business can focus on creating jobs for Floridians.”
Over the span of the 2006-07 through 2010-11 fiscal years, FCHR’s free mediation process helped individual complainants in 508 cases reach a mutually agreeable resolution with those they had accused of illegal discrimination. During that same time period, FCHR issued “no cause” determinations in 3,571 cases. Without FCHR closing these cases quickly, a portion of them likely would have gone to court and required businesses to incur attorney costs, court fees, investigative and deposition expenses, and other court-related expenses – even though the actual complaints may not have been substantiated.
While the extensive savings from these no-cause findings cannot be firmly established, the mediation cases offer clear evidence of FCHR’s value to the business sector:
- According to a 2006 analysis by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average court-ordered damage award in discrimination cases was $134,125 .
- Since mid-2006, the average settlement amount in cases successfully mediated by FCHR is $14,527 .
- Therefore, the average cost avoided per case resulting from FCHR mediation services is $119,598 .
- This average savings multiplied by the number of successful mediations (508) equals $60,755,784 , or an average of $12,151,156 per year.
- These figures do not include additional expenditures, such as attorney fees or court costs.
- Although average damage awards have likely risen significantly over the past five years, FCHR’s study reflects a more conservative estimate based on the last documented federal study of discrimination case awards. Avoided court costs to businesses could in fact be substantially higher than what has been estimated by FCHR, but this cannot be determined conclusively.
The study also establishes FCHR’s return on investment for the taxpayers of Florida, based on the successful resolution of cases through mediation. Over the past five fiscal years, the Legislature has appropriated just under $5 million per year, on average, for FCHR’s entire annual budget. In the same period, businesses have realized, conservatively, more than $12.1 million per year in avoided costs. Thus businesses saved an additional $1.44 beyond each $1.00 spent to fund FCHR.
Over the past five fiscal years:
- The Legislature has appropriated, on average, $4.99 million per year for FCHR operations.
- Businesses have realized, conservatively, more than $12.15 million per year in avoided costs (as documented above).
- Return on Investment: 144% to taxpayers/businesses above the level of FCHR funding.