Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

An EEOC Charge and the Local Congressman

Although not making new law, the 5th Circuit's holding this week that a trial judge had not abused his discretion in keeping out an EEOC determination, did give some insight into how political power sometimes comes into play in EEOC investigations. It also added an additional argument for keeping them out that would be applicable in all cases.

About the political issue the Court said:

The EEOC letter was created under questionable conditions—the EEOC investigators initially determined that NEISD had not discriminated against Guerra but later, following complaints by Guerra to a member of Congress, reopened the file and reversed their decision without any new evidence. The district judge did not allow NEISD to subpoena the EEOC investigators to explain this matter.

Not exactly designed to assure employers about the decision making process. Guerra v. North East Independent School District (5th Cir. 8/14/07) [pdf].

For the more general comment applicable in every case, the Court said a second reason for upholding the trial court's discretionary decision to keep the determination out was that "the EEOC evidence spoke directly to the ultimate issue in the case. It would likely have prejudiced the jury since the EEOC made its own factual determination that age discrimination occurred."

Reminds me of the objection that doesn't seem to be used quite as much any more, maybe because there are relatively few trials, that an answer "would be invading the province of the jury."


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