Did the EEOC Try Hard Enough to Resolve Your Case Before Filing Suit?

March, 2014, three powerful business groups urged the U.S. Supreme Court to consider an important issue at stake for employers in Mach Mining LLC v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission—can courts review the adequacy of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC’s”) conciliation efforts prior to filing suit? In Mach Mining, the Seventh Circuit held “no,” although six other circuits to address this issue have acknowledged an employer’s ability to raise failure to conciliate as an affirmative defense. If the Supreme Court grants Mach Mining’s February 25, 2014 petition for review, the ruling could have significant impact for employers facing potential litigation with the EEOC. Read More

California Court of Appeal Holds Employer Cannot Shorten Statute of Limitation on California Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

Can employers enter into binding agreements with employees to shorten the statute of limitations on discrimination and other employment claims? A California Court of Appeal decision answered that question with a resounding “no” in a recent case, reinstating claims by a woman who filed suit prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations, but after the deadline she had agreed to in an employment agreement signed at the time of hire. Read More

EEOC Cut Short for Shortcutting Path to Court – Again

Last week, the EEOC suffered another major loss when a New York district court found that the EEOC once again shirked its pre-litigation obligations under Title VII. Read More

U.S. Supreme Court Adopts a Narrow Definition of a Supervisor in Harassment Claims

Resolving a split among the circuits, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a “supervisor” for Title VII harassment liability is limited to those who have the power to take a tangible employment action against the alleged victim (e.g., hire, fire, demote, promote, transfer, or discipline). Merely overseeing and directing the alleged victim’s daily work is insufficient to meet this heightened standard.   Read More

If You Can’t Say Anything Good about Someone, Well, Keep Talking – The EEOC Challenges the Legality of Non-Disparage Agreements

As the saying goes, if it didn’t end badly, it never would have ended. That is often the case for former employees who no longer simply gripe to spouses or close friends about their former employers. Disgruntled former employees and disengaged current employees often take to social media in railing on the Company for everything from a toxic work environment to lousy product to scaling back employee perks. Read More

The EEOC Aggressively Pursues Criminal Background Check Policies

On June 11, 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed two separate lawsuits against Dollar General and BMW Manufacturing Co. LLC, accusing each company of discriminating against Black job applicants through the improper use of criminal background screens. The aggressive positions taken by the EEOC in these cases demonstrate the agency means business with respect to cracking down on criminal background check policies that it feels are not consistent with its April 25, 2012 enforcement guidance on the use of criminal conviction and arrest records in employment decisions. The lawsuits also underscore the importance of reviewing existing policies in light of the EEOC’s emphasis on this issue.

For decades, the EEOC has taken the position that criminal background check policies pose a particular threat of adverse impact discrimination against Black and Hispanic job applicants in light of statistics showing that they are convicted at a rate disproportionally greater than their representation in the population. The agency’s first written policy guidance on the use of criminal background screens, published in 1987, explains that “the Commission has held and continues to hold that [criminal background check policies are] unlawful under Title VII in the absence of a justifying business necessity.” In April 2012, the EEOC issued new guidance on the topic (click here to read our April 30, 2012 blog entry on the EEOC’s guidance). Technically, the new guidance did not establish new rules. It undoubtedly illustrates, however, the increased scrutiny under which EEOC is reviewing criminal background check policies such as those at issue in the Dollar General and BMW lawsuits. Read More

Prisoner 24601 May Report For Duty, Says the EEOC

Can the EEOC require employers to hire convicted criminals? Last April, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) issued a policy guideline that calls into question the extent to which employers can incorporate a check of criminal records into a hiring decision without risking legal liability.[1]  Read More

EEOC’s Plan May Mean Narrower, More Aggressive Oversight

As we currently reported on our January 9 blog, on Dec. 17, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission released its strategic enforcement plan (SEP). The SEP resulted from the broader strategic plan unveiled by the EEOC earlier this year, outlining the commission’s activities for 2012-2016. The SEP confirms that combating systemic discrimination will be one of the EEOC’s primary objectives. Read Orrick’s “EEOC’s Plan May Mean Narrower, More Aggressive Oversight” on Law360.

EEOC Releases Its Strategic Enforcement Plan

On December 17, 2012, the EEOC released its Strategic Enforcement Plan.  As previously reported, the EEOC released the draft SEP for public comment on September 4, 2012, with a plan to vote on and implement it by October 1.  The more than two month delay suggests that the Commission reviewed the more than 100 comments to the draft and may have also been internally conflicted over portions of the draft (the Commission’s final vote was 3-1). Read More

Sixth Circuit Reverses Cintas Pattern-or-Practice Case

Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed summary judgment orders in a Title VII sex discrimination case against Cintas Corporation, holding that the EEOC (the intervening plaintiff) should have been allowed to pursue a pattern-or-practice claim under §706 of Title VII using the analytical framework set forth in Int’l Brotherhood of Teamsters v. United States, 431 U.S. 324 (1977). The decision rejects the notion that the Teamsters framework can only be used in cases brought under § 707 of Title VII, paving the way for the EEOC to pursue pattern-and-practice claims under § 706, which allows for the recovery of punitive and compensatory damages.

In Serrano et al. v. Cintas Corp., the EEOC challenged hiring practices used for women who applied to work as truck-driving sales representatives in Michigan. The district court dismissed the EEOC’s pattern-or-practice claim on the grounds that the agency pled the claim under § 706 rather than § 707, which provides specific authorization for such claims. The district court also granted summary judgment for Cintas on thirteen individual claims that the EEOC had pursued, analyzing them under the McDonnell-Douglas framework. Read More