Court Awards Employer $4.5 Million in Fees Against EEOC in Harassment Suit

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Northern District of Iowa federal district court ordered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pay approximately $4.5 million of a defendant’s attorneys’ fees and expenses because the agency’s actions in pursuing the multi-victim sexual harassment lawsuit were “unreasonable, contrary to the procedure outlined by Title VII and imposed an unnecessary burden upon [the defendant] and the court.”  EEOC v. CRST Van Expedited, Inc.

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office sought relief for 270 women who the agency alleged were subjected to a hostile work environment by their employer, a trucking company.  As pre-trial discovery progressed, the district court granted a series of motions that reduced the number of women remaining eligible for relief to 67.  Chief Judge Linda Reade then barred relief even for the 67 and dismissed the lawsuit.  She found the agency did not, prior to the filing its lawsuit, investigate specific allegations or attempt to conciliate relief for any of the 67 women.  The EEOC has appealed the dismissal of the lawsuit to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This case may force the EEOC to do more investigation before filing suit.  It may also give employers an opportunity to resolve the case before defending a lawsuit.

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