For the fourth time in two months a judge has chastised the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission for its high-handed ways, reports Claire Zillman at Fortune:
According to court filings, EEOC personnel arrived with subpoenas in hand, intimidated the small office’s staff, rifled through its confidential personnel and patient files, and illegally took company documents. The EEOC acted “as if it were the FBI executing a criminal search warrant,” HNI said in a court filing.
On September 30, a federal magistrate judge in Atlanta ruled that the commission’s tactics constituted a “highly inappropriate search and seizure operation.” The agency’s “failure to follow its own regulations, its foot-dragging, its errors in communication which caused unnecessary expense for HNI” constituted a “misuse of its authority as an administrative agency.”
Last month federal judge Loretta Preska in Manhattan whacked the agency in a discrimination suit against Bloomberg LP, dismissing most charges and ruling that the agency had failed to shoulder its responsibility to investigate before litigation. [Reuters, NY Post, NY Daily News]
Much more on the agency’s waywardness: Hans Bader; DeGroff and Maatman on 10th Circuit TriCore case.
EEOC v. Boh Brothers is a new Fifth Circuit en banc decision allowing liability on a theory of hostile workplace environment sex discrimination arising from crude and aggressive locker-room banter in an all-male workplace (on facts differing somewhat from those in Oncale v. Sundowner, the 1998 Supreme Court case countenancing such liability). The dissent by Judge Edith Jones, p. 46 at footnote 3, cites my “Sentence First, Verdict Afterward,” from the July issue of Commentary magazine, on the federal government’s unhealthy interest lately in developing legal doctrines that pressure private institutions into adopting speech codes aimed at protecting listeners’ sensitivities.
Don’t miss the “Etiquette for Ironworkers” parody legal memo on p. 58, either. How many dissents include a parody legal memo?
“A group of Spanish-speaking custodial workers in Colorado have filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the Auraria Higher Education Center in Denver discriminated against them by failing to provide Spanish translations.” [Caroline May, Daily Caller; Denver Post]
“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has sued Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice on behalf of a former office assistant who claims disability discrimination over a lifting requirement.” The job’s requirements, at the firm’s North Carolina headquarters, allegedly included moving heavy boxes of documents; according to the complaint, the law firm did not adequately consider accommodations such as letting her divide up the contents of the boxes and use push carts. Womble Carlyle declined to comment. [Debra Cassens Weiss, ABA Journal]
Some commentators would have it that employers can stay out of legal trouble if they just resolve not to discriminate. But the federal agency in charge of these matters, which must count as about as much of an expert as anyone, itself can’t seem to avoid getting sued. The complaint charges disability discrimination and retaliation. [WSJ Law Blog]