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Milestones: 2013

  • Sequestration due to budget and other issues, as well as limited resources, forced the EEOC at midyear to furlough all agency employees for 40 hours (five work days). And, at the start of the new fiscal year in October, the lack of a budget or continuing resolution resulted in a government-wide shutdown, forcing the EEOC to close down for another 16 days. 
  • Despite these upheavals, the EEOC secured a record $372 million in mone­tary relief for the victims of discrimination through administrative enforcement. The Commission continued to achieve results in its systemic investigations, resolving 300 systemic investigations and securing over $40 million in relief for more than 8,300 individuals. The agency reported that 54 out of 231, or 23% of the cases on the litigation docket are systemic, continuing the trend to focus the EEOC litigation on those cases that will have the most impact.
  • The EEOC designed and implemented a new case management system for federal sector hearing cases. It involves early categoriza­tion of a case, followed by an Administrative Judge (AJ)-led conference with the parties.  At the conference, the AJ sets out how discovery will move the case to eventual resolution. 
  • The Commission's outreach, education and technical assistance efforts focused on increasing volunt­ary compliance with federal equal employment laws.  Commission staff participated in over 3,800 no-cost outreach and educational programs.
  • For the first time in the history of the EEOC's EXCEL Conference, private sector employers and officials from state and local Fair Employment Practice Agencies (FEPAs) joined federal sector repre­sentatives for three days of EEO training.  This conference provided two keynote presenters, including Lilly Ledbetter, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act.

Notable Supreme Court Decisions

  • The Supreme Court held in Vance v. Ball State University that an employer may be held vicari­ously liable for a supervisor's unlawful harassment only when the employer has empowered that person to take tangible employment actions against the victim. In University of Texas Southwestern Med. Ctr. v. Nassar,  the Court ruled that the "but for" causation standard applies to Title VII's retaliation provision.

Appellate Decisions

  • In EEOC v. Boh Bros. Constr., 731 F.3d 444 (5th Cir. 2013) (en banc), the Fifth Circuit affirmed a jury verdict of $451,000 for the EEOC in a same-sex harassment case. The court held that a plaintiff alleging same-sex harassment can show that the harassment occurred because of sex by showing that it was motivated by the harasser's subjective perception that the victim failed to conform to gender stereotypes, and that the EEOC had sustained its burden by producing evidence that the harasser viewed his victim as "not manly enough."  
  • In EEOC v. Houston Funding II, Ltd., 717 F.3d 425 (5th Cir. 2013), the Fifth Circuit overturned a district court's decision dismissing the EEOC lawsuit alleging that the charging party was fired after she requested permission to pump breast milk at work.  The Fifth Circuit unanimously held, as a matter of first impression, that taking an adverse employment action against a woman because she is lactating or expressing milk states a claim of sex discrimination under Title VII. 
  • In EEOC v. AutoZone, Inc., 707 F.3d. 824 (7th Cir. 2013), the Seventh Circuit affirmed a $424,000 jury verdict against AutoZone for violating the ADA when it failed to reasonably accommodate the charging party who suffered from severe back pain.  The court also upheld an injunction requiring AutoZone to provide a reasonable accommodation for employees with physical disabilities in all of its central Illinois stores.

Notable EEOC Trial Victories

  • In EEOC v. Exel, Inc., an Atlanta jury awarded $500,000 against a Westerville, Ohio-based warehouse and distribution company for failing to promote a female to a supervisory position because of her gender.
  • In EEOC v. Hill County Farms, Inc., d/b/a Henry's Turkey's Servs., 899 F.Supp.2d 827 (S.D. Io. 2012), aff'd 564 F. App'x. 868 (8thCir. 2014), a jury entered a verdict for the EEOC and awarded $240 million for 32 men with intellectual disabilities who were discriminated against by non-payment of wages, severe verbal and physical harassment, and disparate terms and conditions of employment, all in violation of the ADA.  The jury heard evidence that company subjected the workers to abusive verbal and physical harassment; restricted their freedom of movement; required them to live in deplorable and sub-standard living conditions; and failed to provide adequate medical care when needed.  This jury verdict is the largest ever obtained by the EEOC. The amount awarded for compensatory and punitive damages was later reduced to $1.6 million according to the statutory caps. The Final Judgment which added an earlier court award for unpaid wages was entered for a total judgment in the case of $3.7 million.

Notable EEOC Resolutions

  • In EEOC v. Mesa Sys., Inc. (D. Utah Sept. 27, 2013), the Commission settled for $450,000 for Hispanic employees subjected to national origin discrimination, including derogatory slurs and a restrictive language policy which disparately impacted Hispanics and Asian/Pacific Islanders. The company also retaliated against the victims after they complained to the defendant. 
  • EEOC v. Presrite Corp. (N.D. Ohio Apr. 23, 2013) settled for $700,000 for a class of female employees who were denied hire because of their sex.  The EEOC charged that the company consistently passed over female applicants in favor of less-qualified males for entry-level positions.  Those women who were hired, were told that women should not be working there and called derogatory names.   
  • In EEOC v. Global Horizons Inc., (Del Monte Fresh Produce), No. CV 11-00257 (D.Haw. Nov. 18, 2013), the Commission settled for $1.2 million in monetary damages and extensive injunctive relief.  The EEOC charged that a class of Thai agricultural workers were trafficked to the U.S. under H2-A visas and subjected to deplorable working conditions, including harassment, lower wages, prohibited from leaving the farm, and threats of deportation.  The company, a farm labor contractor, and several farms, including Del Monte, also retaliated against the workers, some of whom subsequently escaped and sought help.

Notable Federal Sector Developments

  • In March, the Commission issued a comprehensive report addressing major obstacles hindering equal employment opportunities for African-Americans in the federal workforce, in addition to highlighting stakeholder recommendations. In December, the EEOC issued a similar report for women.
  • The Commission's Office of Federal Operations formed the LGBT Workgroup, charged with examining obstacles to equal employment opportunity for LGBT individuals employed, or applying for employ­ment, in the federal sector.
  • In Garcia, et al. v. Dep't of Justice, EEOC Appeal No. 0120122033, the Commission found sex dis­crimination with respect to a class of female special agents who were denied certain foreign assign­ments.
  • Over 300 federal agencies submit their MD-715 data to the EEOC via the new online government-to-government portal: the federal sector EEO Portal (FEDSEP).

Significant Guidance

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