Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Governing By Publicity? Is That A Good Use of the Justice System?


I suppose there is a fine line between getting the word out about what the government is doing to enforce the laws, which could make stretched enforcement dollars go further, and trying one's case (not to mention a defendant) in the media. Not sure whether the EEOC may be crossing that line with their latest tactic of advertising their upcoming announcement of two lawsuits. Naomi Earp, Vice Chair of the Commission is taking the time to fly to Phoenix so she can personally deliver the message, and of course the press is invited to attend. According to the press release:

Naomi C. Earp, Vice Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), will host a press conference at the agency's Phoenix District Office on Thursday, February 24, at 12 noon, to announce the filing of two important employment discrimination lawsuits involving teen workers.

The suits involve sexual harassment of male and female teen employees, including same-sex harassment, at two different franchises of a national fast-food chain. Joining the Vice Chair to announce the filing of the two lawsuits in federal district court in Arizona and New Mexico will be EEOC Phoenix District Director Chester V. Bailey and Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. Bailey noted, "These lawsuits are expected to have far reaching effects on the youth-oriented restaurant industry."

And just to build the suspense, "No additional information about the cases will be available until the time of the press conference."

I am not totally sure what I think about this tactic, but it does make me wonder whether this is a good use of government resources (possibly, but I would bet there are better uses), whether it is fair to the defendant (no), and whether since I would normally decry a private plaintiff (or defendant for that matter) who tried to use a lawsuit for a public relations purpose, I should think any differently just because it is a government agency (I don't see why).

Naomi Earp was one of the first items I blogged about, way back on July 29, 2002. (Man, I have been doing this a long time.) And you would think given the comment in that post, she of all the Commissioners might be sensitive to the issue of accusing someone with great fanfare before their case has been adjudicated. My earlier post:

Carswell redux?

Interesting to note that the NAACP is opposing the nomination of Naomi Churchill Earp, a career government worker, to the EEOC. (One small irony is that Earp is African American.) One of the complaints raised in an edition of the federal eeo advisor is that she has cost the government nearly half a million in settlements and awards of federal EEOC charges filed against her.

And the headline? I see I was sometimes cheeky, even back in the beginning:
Borrowing from Senator Roman Hruska's famous endorsement of Supreme Court nominee, G. Harrold Carswell ("Even if he is mediocre there are a lot of mediocre judges and people and lawyers. They are entitled to a little representation, aren't they, and a little chance? We can't have all Brandeises, Cardozos, and Frankfurters, and stuff like that there."): Aren't those accused of discrimination entitled to a little representation on the Commission as well?

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