The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (“7th Circuit”) decided today that employers cannot challenge, and courts cannot review, the adequacy of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC“) informal pre-litigation efforts to bring employers into compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws. This ruling was a blow to corporate America. This ruling means Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”) conveys complete discretion to the Commission to engage in these “conciliation” efforts. Employers cannot seek to dismiss EEOC lawsuits by arguing that the Commission inadequately “conciliated” before filing its lawsuit. This ruling will help employees in sexual harassment lawsuits.
This case originated from the EEOC’s lawsuit against Illinois based Mach Mining, LLC,. The EEOC sued Mach Mining in September 2011, alleging that the company violated Title VII by failing to hire any female miners since beginning operations in 2006, despite having received applications from many highly qualified women. Instead of addressing the issue head on, Mach Mining chose to defend against these allegations in part by criticizing the EEOC for inadequately conciliating the matter before suing.
The EEOC moved for partial summary judgment with respect to Mach Mining’s so-called affirmative defense that the Commission had failed to properly conciliate before filing its complaint in court. The district court denied the EEOC’s motion for partial summary judgment, but allowed the EEOC to take an interlocutory appeal. The interlocutory appeal ended up at the 7th Circuit and is the subject of this ruling.
“As a result of a few unfortunate decisions, litigation of our conciliation efforts in discrimination cases have become big distractions which waste the resources of employers, the courts, and the EEOC.” said EEOC attorney Gregory Gochanour