Originally conceived as an efficient means to help plaintiffs in debt collection cases, Rule 56 allowed judges to quickly resolve claims where material facts were not genuinely in dispute and the defendant could not mount a defense. In employment litigation, however, Rule 56 has been turned on its head and has contributed greatly to the growing phenomena of vanishing civil trials. Today Rule 56 is invoked in ways the authors of the Rule never imagined – it is used by defendant employers against plaintiff employees as a delay tactic or to deny workers their day in court altogether, it is routinely utilized in complex employment cases where material facts are in dispute, and it is widely perceived as a docket clearing device by the federal courts.
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