Progressive EEOC “Benchslapped” by Court
Posted by Steve Markowitz on October 10, 2013
This Blog has often writes about a government out-of-control that tramples on individual and corporate rights with increasing impunity. Laws that may start with good intent often morph into discriminatory regulations enforced by an out-of-control bureaucracy and regulators. The bureaucrats and regulators, who are rewarded for enforcement activities, end up taking rights from some Americans for the benefit of others. The system is ripe for political interpretations and partisanship, as we have seen in the recently IRS scandal
Earlier today Fiona W. Ong, an attorney with the labor law firm Shawe & Rosenthal, posted an article about the EEOC’s (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s) overreach that was castigated by the courts. The case, brought by the EEOC against a temporary staffing firm, is discussed in Ms. Fiona’s article and its links posted below.
The case was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Michigan that not only found against the EEOC, but castigated the Commission for pursuing a meritless lawsuit. The court ordered the EEOC to pay the defendant $745,000 to help defray its cost of litigation. The EEOC appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit who this week upheld the lower court’s decision.
As a labor lawyer, Ms. Ong likely see firsthand the huge costs employers expend defending against frivolous claims. While those employers succeed in many of the cases, the legal costs are huge, especially with the nearly limitless pockets available when the plaintiff is the US government. This reality forces completely innocent defendants to pay “green mail” since such settlements ultimately are less costly than litigation.
Like Ms. Ong, seeing a government agency slapped down for abuse is heartwarming to this blogger. However, that warm feeling is tempered by the damage abusive government programs have done and will continue to do to individuals and the greater economy. For this and similar reasons, American industry has been gutted as companies respond to the abuse in the only logical manner available to them; move to countries with friendlier business environments.
In addition, my fleeting feeling in of warmth engendered by the court’s decision quickly cools when realizing that the EEOC made the outrageous decisions with taxpayers not only paid for this foolish litigation, but also the fine levied by the court.
This should be a lesson to Progressives looking for even more government. It should be remembered that behind every bureaucratic and regulatory position there is a human being who is just as greedy and flawed as those in the private sector. However, there are significant differences with the main one being that government employees are rarely held accountable for their poor decisions.
EEOC Slapdown Over Meritless Criminal Background Check Lawsuit
I like the EEOC – I really do. They do important work, and most of the time they seem to get it right. But every once in a while they dig in their heels over something patently ridiculous, leaving employers and management attorneys like me tearing out our hair in frustration. So there’s no small measure of satisfaction when the EEOC gets benchslapped by a court for engaging in an unreasonable lawsuit, as just happened in EEOC v. Peoplemark, Inc.
As I mentioned in a recent blogpost, EEOC’s Attempt to Prohibit Use of Background Checks Rejected, the EEOC is being rather aggressive in its pursuit of employers using criminal background checks in the hiring of employees. Although the EEOC’s own Enforcement Guidance on the Consideration of Arrest and Conviction Records in Employment Decisions contemplates the reasonable use of criminal records, the EEOC has been pursuing criminal background check claims against employers that just don’t make sense.
In the Peoplemark case, the EEOC brought suit against a temporary staffing company because a company VP told the EEOC that the company had a policy of denying jobs to those with felony records. It turned out that the VP was mistaken (and what a mistake that was!), but the EEOC pursued the case even after it was clear that no such policy existed and that the company did, in fact, refer felons for jobs. After the case was finally dismissed, the trial court scolded the EEOC for bringing a lawsuit that lacked merit from the beginning and forcing the company to incur significant defense fees and costs. Deeming the EEOC to be unreasonable in continuing to litigate even after it was clear that there was no basis for its claims, the court ordered the EEOC to pay the company $219,000 in attorneys’ fees and $526,000 in expert fees, plus costs. This award was upheld on appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.
Frequently employers are forced to spend excessive sums of money to defend against frivolous claims. Rarely do courts award fees and costs to employers who successfully defend themselves against such claims, and realistically, individual plaintiffs could rarely afford to pay them in any case. So it really warms my heart on those extraordinary occasions when justice is served! Three cheers!