U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
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.