South-Western Legal Studies in Business

Sanctions Imposed on EEOC for Failure to Follow Proper Procedure
Description Appeals court affirmed the imposition of financial sanctions on the EEOC for failing to follow the procedure mandated by Title VII to attempt to conciliate disputes with employers. The agency sued the employer without offering any basis for liability and ignored the employer's offer to engage in conciliation talks.
Topic Employment Discrimination
Key Words Conciliation Procedure; EEOC; Sanctions
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Lewis, an African-American, worked for Asplundh on a construction project being done for GRU in Florida. While working on the project, Lewis complained to his Asplundh boss that a GRU supervisor, Evans, engaged in racial harassment. The boss confronted Evans, who then apologized. After the construction work was finished, Lewis and other workers were laid off by Asplundh due to lack of work in the area. Lewis complained to the EEOC about Evans's actions. On behalf of Lewis, EEOC conducted a 32 month investigation of Asplundh. At the end of the investigation, the EEOC demanded that Asplundh rehire Lewis, pay him damages, notify all employees nationwide of this incident, and begin nationwide anti-discrimination training of all managerial and hourly employees. Asplundh responded to seek negotiations, but EEOC demanded compliance with its order and filed suit. The district court dismissed the suit, finding that the EEOC failed to meet its duty to engage in good faith conciliation, and ordered EEOC to pay Asplundh's costs and attorneys' fees. The EEOC appealed.
Decision

Affirmed. The EEOC violated its Title VII duty to conciliate the dispute, which warrants the sanction of its paying costs and fees. Defendant cooperated in all aspects of the 32-month investigation. The far-reaching remediation proposed by the EEOC did not identify any theory of liability and gave the company only 12 days to respond. The EEOC ignored the response by Asplundh that attempted to conciliate the dispute. Instead the EEOC filed suit and refused to engage in conciliation as required by law.

Citation EEOC v. Asplundh Tree Expert Co., 340 F.3d 1256 (11th Cir., 2003)

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