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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
5-15-12

Court Affirms EEOC’S Authority to Proceed on Behalf of Discrimination Victims Even If Not Yet Identified Individually

Judge  Denies Defendant Employer’s Motion for Summary Judgment

CHICAGO – A federal judge has  affirmed the authority of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  (EEOC) to proceed with actions on behalf of discrimination victims even if they  had not yet been individually identified before lawsuit was filed, the agency  announced today.

Judge Ruben Castillo of U.S.  District Court for the Northern District of Illinois has issued an order  denying an employer’s motion for summary judgment in a lawsuit brought by the  federal agency under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). (EEOC  v. United Road Towing, N.D. Ill. No. 10-cv-06259; Order, 5/11/2012, J.  Ruben Castillo.)

In its motion for summary judgment,  the defendant employer contended that EEOC failed to satisfy the administrative  requirements provided for by the ADA. Under the law, before filing a lawsuit, the  EEOC must investigate allegations of discrimination to determine whether there  is probable cause to find that there has been a violation and, thereafter,  attempt to resolve any violations found through a negotiation and conciliation  process. Specifically, the company  argued that EEOC failed to specifically identify class members who suffered  discrimination, failed to individually investigate the experiences of  unidentified class members, and failed to engage in the statutory conciliation  process on an individual basis with respect to each class member separately.

In its opinion, the district court  rejected these arguments, declining to judicially review the adequacy of the  EEOC’s administrative processes, including investigations and conciliations.  Relying on existing case law precedent, Judge Castillo wrote, “[C]ourts may not  review EEOC administrative investigations to determine whether a particular  investigation sufficiently supports the claims that the EEOC brings in a  subsequent lawsuit.”

The court also rejected the  argument that EEOC had failed to conciliate in good faith by not specifically identifying  class members during conciliation. The court noted that the EEOC had  communicated to the defendant that it found reasonable cause to believe that  the law had been violated with respect to a class of disabled individuals. Accordingly, the court found that the defendant  was aware, or should have been aware, that conciliation efforts encompassed  class members. Finding summary judgment  was not warranted, the district court said that it would “nevertheless” stay  proceedings in the case for 14 days to afford the parties an additional to time  to reach a negotiated resolution. The  EEOC noted that such stays are routine in such cases, and indicated that it did  not object to additional time for negotiations.

“The EEOC takes seriously its  statutory duty to investigate and attempt conciliation ofcharges prior to  filing suit, and believes it fully satisfied both duties in this case,” said  EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez.“We are pleased that Judge  Castillorejected the defendant's invitation to scrutinize the sufficiency  of the EEOC's investigation. This ruling follows the well-established  view that a judicial inquiry into EEOC's investigative process is improper  because it deflects the efforts of the court and the parties from the main  purpose of the case - to determine whether the defendant violated the  law.We are likewise pleased that the judge agreed that our  conciliation effortswere sufficient to seek relief for all victims in  this case.”

The EEOC Chicago District Office is  responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement  and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa,  and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment  discrimination. Further information  about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.