“MIAMI – In a verdict in favor of U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a jury has found that a licensed security guard with only one arm was unlawfully discriminated against based on his limb loss when his employer removed him from his post following a customer complaint about his disability, the federal agency announced today.” The agency said it was well-settled under federal anti-discrimination law that employers cannot act on the basis of discriminatory consumer preferences. [EEOC press release]
Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner:
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission told a district court that it should not have to reveal its own policies regarding criminal background checks because that information is not relevant to the discrimination cases it files against private companies.
Background from Jon Hyman, Ohio Employer’s Law Blog:
This argument [advanced by automaker BMW, whose policies the EEOC is challenging] is not novel. At least two other federal courts have compelled the EEOC to turn over similar information in similar cases (here and here). The words of one of those courts is particularly instructive:
If Plaintiff uses hiring practices similar to those used by Defendant, this fact may show the appropriateness of those practices, particularly because Plaintiff is the agency fighting unfair hiring practices.… Further, Defendant is not required to accept Plaintiff’s position in its briefs that the two entities’ practices are dissimilar – Defendant is entitled to discovery on this issue as it relates to Defendant’s defense.
Intellectual dishonesty is offensive. If the EEOC has policies that screen-out certain felons, then the EEOC should not publish enforcement guidance that limits this practice, and should not pursue litigation that challenges this practice.
And a Sept. 17 House subcommittee hearing on EEOC adventurism, reported at Employee Screen, includes this on possible reforms:
Proposed legislation discussed at the hearing included H.R. 4959, the “EEOC Transparency and Accountability Act”, which would require the EEOC to maintain up-to-date information on its website regarding charges and actions brought by the EEOC; H.R. 5422, “Litigation Oversight Act of 2014”, which would require the EEOC to approve by a majority vote to begin or intervene in litigation involving multiple plaintiffs or systemic discrimination; and H.R. 5423, “Certainty in Enforcement Act of 2014”, which would protect employers from EEOC action in cases that specifically involve criminal background checks required by state or local law. …
[The subcommittee chair, Michigan Republican Rep. Tim] Walberg noted that 19 stakeholders representing a wide variety of constituents signed a letter supporting all three bills, which included the National Association of Professional Background Screeners (NAPBS), SHRM, and other professional, healthcare, retail and food service organizations.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has extracted an $85,000 settlement and other relief from Atchison Transportation Services, Inc., of South Carolina on charges that one of its managers terminated two motorcoach drivers who were 75 and 76 years old respectively. As with disability discrimination, federal law on age discrimination generally requires that termination be based only on cause-based individualized determinations of unfitness; in practice, an employer may be well advised to premise such determinations only on evidence that would stand up under legal scrutiny as objective, such as, for example, a driver’s loss of license or involvement in an accident. [EEOC press release, h/t Roger Clegg]
The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is used to getting its way since most employers would rather settle rather than face the expense and publicity risk of litigating against it. But sometimes, as I note in my new post at Cato, judges get a close look at just how weak the commission’s position is. And then…
More from Bob in comments: “Here’s the problem… major employers have made changes to their severance agreements to comport with the EEOC’s position in CVS. They EEOC has lost the case and still gotten the change they wanted. That’s all they care about. Much like the new Pregnancy Discrimination Act guidance which turns prior guidance and case law on its head. Major employers have already reacted in order to avoid costly litigation though the chances of a neutral court agreeing with the guidance are pretty low.”
I’ve got a new post up at Cato (“Sixth Circuit: You’re Drunk, EEOC, Go Home“) on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s spectacular loss yesterday at the Sixth Circuit in the Kaplan case. As I comment, the victory for the defendant is
all the more impressive because one of the three judges on the opinion is liberal lion Damon Keith, about as sympathetic a judicial ear as the EEOC could normally hope for. It’s a sharp setback for the agency’s dubious “disparate impact” campaign against employer use of credit and criminal records in hiring. And it’s also part of a pattern of rebuffs and defeats the EEOC has been dealt by judges across the country since President Obama turned the agency on a sharp leftward course with his appointments.
The Sixth Circuit has actually been one of the EEOC’s better circuits in recent years. For example, it reversed a Michigan federal judge who in 2011 had awarded $2.6 million in attorneys’ fees to Cintas, the employee-uniform company, and reinstated the lawsuit. In doing so, the appellate panel nullified what had been the lower court’s findings of “egregious and unreasonable conduct” by the agency, including a “reckless sue first, ask questions later strategy.” The commission hailed the reversal as one of its big legal wins — although when one of your big boasts is getting $2.6 million in sanctions against you thrown out, it might be that you don’t have much to brag about.
For some other recent EEOC courtroom setbacks, check our roundup of last month. If you wonder why the commission persists in its extreme aggressiveness anyway, one answer may be that the strategy works: most defendants settle, and the commission hauled in a record $372 million in settlements last year. Yet here and there, as with Kaplan, defendants decide to put up a fight, with instructive results. When will Congress begin to hold the commission accountable? More: Hans Bader, CEI.
To end an employment lawsuit, or more often simply as part of a non-litigious parting, employers often offer a severance package part of which consists of various terms releasing all claims and covenanting not to sue, requiring confidentiality and cooperation in the case of future litigation, and so forth. Now, in a lawsuit against CVS, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking the position that many such clauses constitute “retaliation” for protected activity and are legally invalid. Jon Hyman of Ohio Employer’s Law Blog notes that the clauses under challenge are generic ones widely used in severance packages and explains why in his view the “case has the potential to be most significant piece of litigation the EEOC has filed in recent memory.” Daniel Schwartz at Connecticut Employment Law Blog also calls the suit “a big deal: “My gut tells me that the courts are not likely to view the government’s arguments with favor. … But for employers, that is of little solace.” More: Ameet Sachdev/Chicago Tribune (“the EEOC brought the suit even though CVS expressly protected employees’ rights under discrimination laws”), Joshua Feinstein, JD Supra (“the potential for havoc is great”), Hope Eastman/Paley Rothman (“a major shock to employers”)
As mentioned yesterday, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has either had a stretch of really, really bad luck in court lately, or else it’s been caught out by a series of judges for outrageously aggressive litigation sometimes crossing over into misconduct. Among the recent cases, the Sixth Circuit upheld a fee award of $750,000 to a company that the commission had sued over a purported policy of not hiring convicted felons. Here’s Molly DiBianca of the Delaware Employment Law Blog:
The EEOC “investigated” the Charge, issuing multiple subpoenas and obtaining more than 15,000 pages of documents. Although the evidence did not seem to support the allegations in the Charge, EEOC disagreed and filed suit. The suit, asserted on a class of individuals, alleged that the company’s policy prohibited the hiring “of any person with a criminal record,” which disparately impacted Black applicants.
The trouble, though, was that PeopleMark did not have such a policy. Then the EEOC identified approximately 250 individuals it contended to be within the class of aggrieved persons. Well, as it turned out, PeopleMark had hired 57 of the individuals and some others did not have a criminal background in the first place.
More from Eric Paltell/Kollman & Saucier; DeGroff & Maatman; Greg Mersol, Baker Hostetler; EEOC v. PeopleMark.