EEOC Gets Dressed Down
By Federal Judge
“Smacked of Bad Faith”
Several women working for Bloomberg, the financial news company, filed charges at the New York City district office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and maternity. These were followed by retaliation charges, claims that Bloomberg engaged in reprisals for filing the initial charges. When the EEOC found probable cause, the parties attempted conciliation as the law provides.
The Commission demanded $6,000,000 in back pay, front pay, and other damages, plus the creation of a class fund for payouts. Bloomberg rejected this proposal and instead offered $65,000 per claimant, with no class fund. The EEOC deemed the settlement discussion over and sued in federal court. Bloomberg sought details about the retaliation claims, which formed the basis for a separate demand by the EEOC for another multi-million dollar settlement. Bloomberg again declined to set up a class fund but advised the Commission it was open to further discussion.
Thereafter the two parties engaged in over-heated conversation in which Bloomberg reiterated its request for further information about the retaliation claims, and the Commission responded with what the court found were insubstantial and vague statements.
When Bloomberg sought summary judgment because the Commission never made a legally sufficient effort to conciliate, the court refused to grant the motion as to the initial claims of discrimination. But it agreed that the Commission had acted improperly as to the retaliation claims and dismissed them – with prejudice - rather than send the parties back to the mediation phase. The EEOC’s conduct “stonewalled” the process and “smacked of bad faith”; “The EEOC’s approach to conciliation here reeks of using the proposed settlement agreement as a weapon to force settlement….In a complex case like this one, the EEOC cannot, when the employer reasonably asks for information to formulate a monetary counteroffer, make substantial monetary demands and require employers to pony up or face a lawsuit.”