WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court said Monday it will consider a dispute over the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s duty to try and settle charges of job discrimination before filing lawsuits against employers.
The issue has riled business groups as the Obama administration has aggressively stepped up enforcement of the nation’s anti-discrimination laws.
The justices agreed to hear an appeal from an Illinois mining company that was sued by the EEOC for failing to hire qualified female job applicants. The government alleges that Mach Mining has never hired any female miners since it began operations in 2006 despite getting applications from many qualified women.
The company says the lawsuit should be thrown out because the EEOC didn’t try hard enough to negotiate a settlement before going to court. The Obama administration claims it is up to the EEOC — not the courts — to decide whether terms of a settlement are acceptable.
A federal judge agreed to review whether the EEOC’s attempt to settle the case was “sincere and reasonable,” but the government objected. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, saying a company could not raise ineffective settlement effort as a defense.
Federal law does require the EEOC to try to stop illegal employment practices by “informal methods of conference, conciliation and persuasion.” But it also allows the commission to file a lawsuit if it has been unable to reach a conciliation agreement “acceptable to the commission.”
Appeals courts have long been split as to how deeply to probe the EEOC’s settlement efforts. Some require a minimal level of “good faith,” while other courts perform a more thorough analysis. But the 7th Circuit was the first appeals court to rule that employers cannot try to dismiss EEOC lawsuits by claiming conciliation efforts were lacking. The court said that would undermine the agency’s law enforcement goals and tempt employers into dragging out settlement talks.
The case has drawn interest from the business and judicial communities.
The Supreme Court will reconsider the case, Mach Mining, LLC v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 13-1019, when its new term begins this fall.
At a glance
Court chops bid to skip sanctions
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has rejected an appeal to lift sanctions imposed by a judge on Arab Bank, PLC, in lawsuits seeking to hold the bank partially responsible for terrorist acts in the Middle East.
The high court let stand a lower court ruling penalizing the Jordan-based bank for not turning over financial records. Survivors and relatives of victims of terrorist attacks in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza between 1995 and 2004 claim in lawsuits that the institution supported terror groups by providing financial services to them.
The bank said turning over the records would break the law in other countries.
But a judge imposed sanctions that would make it easier for the plaintiffs to prove their case and recover treble damages.
The case is Arab Bank v. Linde, 12-1485.
Madoff case trustee loses claim
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will not let the trustee working to recover money for Bernard Madoff’s investors sue major financial institutions for their role in Madoff’s massive fraud.
The court refused Monday to hear an appeal from trustee Irving Picard, who wants to pursue tens of billions of dollars from UBS AG, HSBC Bank PLC and other institutions.
Picard, as trustee for the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, has brought claims in bankruptcy court alleging that the institutions were complicit in Madoff’s vast Ponzi scheme because they provided him with financial services while ignoring obvious signs he was a con artist. A federal appeals court ruled that Picard doesn’t have legal standing to make claims against the financial institutions that Madoff’s burned customers could make themselves.
Justices pan union fee activities
WASHINGTON —The Supreme Court says public sector unions can’t collect fees from home health care workers who object to being affiliated with a union.
The justices on Monday said collecting the fees violates the First Amendment rights of workers who are not union members.
The ruling is a financial blow to labor unions that have bolstered their ranks in Illinois and other states by signing up hundreds of thousands of home health care workers.
The case was brought by a group of Illinois in-home care workers who said they didn’t want to pay fees related to collective bargaining. They claimed the “fair share fees” violate their constitutional rights by compelling them to associate with the union.
Lower courts had thrown out the lawsuit.