The District of Hawaii is the latest federal court to address the obligations of the EEOC during conciliation before it files suit. In EEOC v. La Rana Hawaii, LLC, the court determined that the Ninth Circuit’s decision in EEOC v. Pierce Packing required a “genuine investigation, reasonable cause determination and conciliation [as] jurisdictional conditions precedent to suit by the EEOC.” The court explained that, in light of this precedent, the EEOC must actually investigate the claims of discrimination and harassment and attempt to resolve the claims through good-faith conciliation.
The court next considered whether the EEOC’s conciliation efforts in this case adequately satisfied Title VII’s pre-suit requirement. The court acknowledged that the Ninth Circuit has not yet articulated a standard for determining the sufficiency of conciliation. Nevertheless, the court found that the EEOC had failed to conciliate in good faith by failing to provide the defendants with enough information with which they could evaluate the EEOC’s claims.
Specific problems that the court identified included the EEOC’s “obstinate refusal” to provide the defendants with any specific information about the class members or the allegedly unlawful acts. This refusal constituted a failure to demonstrate a “willingness to work toward settlement.” The court found that the EEOC’s “take-it-or-leave-it” offer further demonstrated the insufficiency of its efforts.
Having found that the EEOC failed to satisfy its pre-suit conciliation obligation, the court explained that the EEOC should be provided the opportunity to cure any defect in the process. As a result, the court stayed the case pending the completion of a good-faith conciliation by the parties. The court instructed the EEOC to provide the defendants with information necessary to make an informed decision about the case. For example, the EEOC must provide the number or identity of the claimants that it had identified during its investigation, as well as information about the specific incidents of harassment or discrimination.