Big Handslap for the EEOC From the 5th Circuit
by Michael Fox
I have mentioned in the past how the last week in September often sees an influx of suits filed by the EEOC, see here, but one of those suits has now come back to bite the Commission.
In EEOC v. Agro Distribution (5th Cir. 1/15/09) [pdf] the Court upheld the district court's granting of summary judgment against the Commission in a disability claim, and its award to Agro of its attorneys fees for time spent after the deposition of the plaintiff which made clear that he did not have a viable claim. The amount awarded $225,000.
Although attorneys fees were awarded only post-deposition, it was clear that the courts were not impressed with the EEOC's handling of the investigation or conciliation process as well as the basic claim. After detailing some of the issues (and also finding that the failure to conciliate does not deprive a court of jurisdiction) it concluded as follows:
The EEOC must vigorously enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act
and ensure its protections to affected workers, but in doing so, the EEOC owes
duties to employers as well: a duty reasonably to investigate charges, a duty to
conciliate in good faith, and a duty to cease enforcement attempts after learning
that an action lacks merit. In this case, the EEOC abandoned its duties and
pursued a groundless action with exorbitant demands. The district court
appropriately granted summary judgment for and awarded attorneys’ fees to
Agro, and its judgment is AFFIRMED.
Although it is taxpayer's money that is being expended, for anyone who has had to deal with unreasonable demands from the Commission, can't help but feel a little pleased at the reminder that the EEOC owes duties to employers as well.