Logistics: The court receives about 10 daily visits from workers claiming to be unfairly dismissed and either planning to file a suit or just looking for legal advice. But the court does not provide advice in its building. Free legal advice is provided at a building more than 3 km away, a half hour or more away by public transport. Every week day we will put a module (stand) at the court’s entrance. We will randomize at the day level whether the module gives one of four treatments described below. The target population of this pilot study is workers searching for legal advice, conciliation or preparing to sue. We hypothesize that the effect of information to induce settlement out of court will be far larger before workers have private lawyers.
1a) Control group: We will tell incoming workers that the court is collecting information to provide better services and understand the parties’ problems better. We will then do and entry survey to collect basic information on their case (data necessary for the calculator –even though we will not give calculator), including expectations on case outcomes if a suit is filed, date of firing, name of company, and their name, phone and address. We will then tell them that we will re-contact them in 6 months after intervention by phone or visit to follow up on their case.
1b) Public lawyer information: Same as 1a, except that we will provide detailed information on the public lawyers that are available , a map of where they are located, and will be offered an immediate mode of transport to the public lawyers’ office.
2) Calculator information: Same as 1b except that we will also give them the calculator information. The calculator will be implemented in situ using the information provided on the baseline survey. We have found that 5 variables are enough to give an accurate prediction of outcomes on the probability of winning, the amount of winnings conditional on a positive result at trial, and the average amount that can be obtained in a settlement. This calculator will consist of a point estimate of the probability of recovering a positive amount if the worker sues and continues the litigation to a court judgment, and an interval estimate of the amount of compensation obtained in a settlement, measured in days of salary. We will re-elicit (follow-up) expectations about the probability of winning conditional on suing, and amount earned conditional on winning, and delay. This will enable us to analyze updating because of the information we provided. After receiving the calculator information, subjects will receive information about the public lawyers’ office, the map, and the offer of immediate transport to that location.
3) Early free conciliation help: Same as 2 but in addition –after providing the calculator information and re-eliciting (follow-up) expectations-- the court will offer help setting up and conducting a conciliation meeting with the employer. If the worker accepts this help, the court will give her an official letter of appointment addressed to the firm. The worker will take this letter of appointment to the firm and we will confirm by phone that it was delivered. The letter of appointment will be printed on the court’s letterhead, and will signed by the General Secretary for Individual Labor Disputes (the boss of all the judges of the sub-courts), and will contain a specific date/time for the conciliation meeting. At the meeting time --if both parties show up-- we will provide to the firm the same calculator information already provided to the worker, and sit them down with a court conciliator to attempt a settlement agreement. If they make an agreement, the module personnel will help draft the formal agreement and the court decree formalizing the settlement, and send these documents to the office for “settlements without a lawsuit” to register the agreement, giving it force of law. If the firm does not show up to the conciliation meeting, or the parties are unable to reach a settlement, then we will recommend the worker to the public prosecutor’s office in case she wants to pursue a lawsuit, provide her with the map, and offer immediate transport.
It is important to highlight that the research team will not be giving legal advice or conducting the conciliation hearings. These will be done by the court under their current procedures. The research team will only provide information. A
This study is intended to run for about 250 week days, and we plan to have 10 subjects per day, giving us a total of 2500 subjects, that is 625 per arm. We think this is a very reasonable number to test the promise of the pilot, logistics and materials, and believe the sample may be of sufficient size to generate statistically significant results from the pilot. Sample sizes may vary depending on financing for the project