Federal Agency Alleged Foresight Energy Companies Discriminated Against Women in Hiring for Mining and Related Positions
CHICAGO -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) announced today that it has resolved two lawsuits against a group of affiliated coal mining companies that it had accused of hiring practices that effectively excluded women from working in the underground mines and in other coal production positions. The cases were resolved by a single consent decree entered by Senior District Judge J. Phil Gilbert. The decree calls for the mining companies to jointly pay a total of $4.25 million to a group of women applicants who were denied jobs because of sex discrimination. Additionally, the companies have agreed to hiring goals that are expected to result in at least 34 women being hired into coal production jobs in their mines that operate in Illinois.
Sex discrimination in hiring violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. EEOC filed suit against Marion, Ill.-based Mach Mining, LLC on Sept. 27, 2011 (case number 11-cv-00879-JPG) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in Benton, Ill., after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
During the course of the litigation, a procedural matter - the standard by which courts were to determine whether EEOC had met its obligation to try to resolve cases before bringing suit - was sent to the Seventh Circuit court of appeals and ultimately to the U.S. Supreme Court for an initial ruling, which was decided by the Supreme Court on April 29, 2015. The litigation of the merits was put on hold while that issue was on appeal. On December 5, 2016, EEOC filed a second lawsuit naming certain affiliates of Mach which, along with Mach, are part of St. Louis-based Foresight Energy. The entities named in the second suit were Foresight Energy Services LLC, Foresight Energy LLC, Foresight Energy LP, Foresight Energy Labor LLC, Hillsboro Energy LLC, Macoupin Energy LLC, MaRyan Mining LLC, M-Class Mining LLC, Patton Mining LLC, Sugar Camp Energy LLC, Viking Mine LLC, and Williamson Energy LLC.
The second suit came from a discrimination charge brought against the companies by EEOC Chair Jenny Yang. The two cases were consolidated for purposes of resolution.
EEOC Chicago District Director Julie Bowman said that she was pleased with the cooperation between EEOC and the Foresight companies in resolving the suits.
"Though it has been some years since EEOC first filed suit, these cases were actually resolved fairly early in the litigation process," said Bowman. "No depositions have yet been taken in the case, sparing both EEOC and the companies the expenditure of significant resources. We were also pleased that Foresight has volunteered to engage the services of a consultant to help ensure that the integration of women miners into the workforce goes smoothly and is successful."
EEOC Deputy General Counsel James Lee said, "EEOC is pleased with the ongoing success of its systemic initiative. When an employer like Foresight Energy, which is prominent in its field, agrees to enter into a strong consent decree such as this, we find that other employers in the industry often implement similar reforms. In this way, the impact of our larger cases has a helpful ripple effect."
Chicago Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour noted that it has been difficult for women to enter careers that were traditionally dominated by men, despite Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 having been enacted more than 50 years ago.
Gochanour said, "We are very pleased with the outcome of these cases, as they will lead directly to the hiring of a significant number of women into mining positions. The number of women participating in mining, construction and similar "heavy" industries is very small, despite the high wages these jobs bring. During the litigation of this case, EEOC found scores of women who were willing, able and qualified to work in the mines. Very few of them ever had the opportunity to do so. With these resolutions, we are a step closer to leveling the playing field."
In addition to providing for monetary relief to a class of female applicants and deterred applicants, and female hiring goals at Foresight's Illinois mines, the decree calls for training of Foresight personnel, regular reporting to EEOC on compliance with the decree's terms for four years, and posting at the mines notices informing employees of the decree's terms.
EEOC's trial team was composed of Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour and Trial Attorneys Ethan Cohen, Deborah Hamilton and Ann Henry. The underlying discrimination charges were investigated by Enforcement Supervisors Tyrone Irvin and Nanisa Pereles, and Investigators Eva Baran, Seth Sinclair and Grace Swierczek.
EEOC's 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.
EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.