Employers are wary of litigating against the EEOC. And for good reason. Many employers who have faced the EEOC in the courtroom have complained that the agency uses guerilla litigation tactics. One commonly heard complaint occurs in the context of class actions, when the EEOC refuses to disclose the identity of the claimants on behalf of whom the EEOC seeks relief.
Recently, though, some courts have heard these complaints and agreed with the employer. Different courts have reacted, differently, though. Only a few have gone so far as dismissing the EEOC’s case.
One of the first courts to take this course was the U.S. District Court in Iowa. In EEOC v. CRST Van Expedited, Inc., the EEOC filed suit on behalf of 270 female truck drivers, claiming that they were subject to a hostile work environment. The district court dismissed the claims of all but two employees. The company settled the remaining claim for $50,000.
The EEOC appealed but the 8th Circuit held that the EEOC’s failure to conduct a complete investigation and conciliation prevented it from representing certain claimants and affirmed the dismissal of the EEOC’s suit as to those employees.
With that significant victory under its belt, the employer has decided to see if it can keep its winning streak alive. On March 18, 2013, CRST filed a petition seeking $5.5 million in fees and expenses incurred in defending the EEOC’s suit. In support of its petition, the employer points to some troubling facts:
· 150 depositions were taken during the litigation;
· 115 of the 270 claimants were dismissed for failing to appear for deposition;
· 7 summary-judgment motions were filed;
· 88 claims were dismissed as meritless; and
· 67 claims were dismissed for the EEOC’s failure to conciliate.
These facts should be enough to scare any employer, although it remains to be seen whether they will be sufficient to warrant an award of fees. We’ll be sure to keep you posted.