On April 29, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long-awaited decision in Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC, No. 13-1019 (U.S. 2015), and concluded, in a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Kagan, that federal courts have the authority to review the EEOC’s conciliation efforts. In language that is sure to be repeated back to the EEOC for years to come, the Supreme Court held that “[a]bsent such review, the Commission’s compliance with the law would rest in the Commission’s hands alone.” This, the Supreme Court said, would be contrary to “the Court’s strong presumption in favor of judicial review of administrative action.”
While the Supreme Court did not rule that the intensive review that Mach Mining argued for was required, the case nevertheless represents a significant win for employers and resounding defeat for the EEOC. The EEOC will no longer be able to file suit against employers after paying mere lip-service to its conciliation efforts, and to give them the back of the hand in response to requests for fulsome information about liability and exposure in a threatened lawsuit. And employers will as a result be in a better position to settle meritorious claims on reasonable terms before the EEOC files suit, thus saving employers from unnecessary litigation expense.
This ruling is a big case for employers and for government enforcement litigation. In a game-changing decision in December 2013, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that an alleged failure to conciliate is not an affirmative defense to the merits of an employment discrimination suit brought by the EEOC. That decision had far-reaching, real world significance to the employment community because it meant that the EEOC was virtually immune from review in terms of the settlement positions it takes – often: “pay millions or we will sue and announce it in a media release.”
We have kept our blog readers up to date on this litigation as it wound through the lower courts and progressed at the Supreme Court. Readers can find the previous posts here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. In addition, Seyfarth filed an amicus brief supporting Mach Mining’s position, a copy of which can be found here. In essence, the Seventh Circuit determined that the EEOC’s pre-lawsuit conduct in the context of conciliation activities was immune from judicial review, and the Supreme Court grantedcertiorari to determine whether that was correct and, if not, what standard federal courts should use to review the EEOC’s conciliation efforts.
Read Court Ruling and Full Article Here;