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A court can review whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) conducted an investigation prior to a lawsuit, but it may not evaluate the sufficiency of that investigation, according to the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Between 2005 and 2007, 19 female employees of Sterling Jewelers Inc. filed charges with the EEOC, alleging a nationwide practice of gender-based pay and promotion discrimination. The agency subsequently issued a letter of determination finding that Sterling violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and then filed a lawsuit against the company. Sterling sought to have the case dismissed, arguing that the EEOC had failed to conduct a pre-suit investigation, as required by statute. The district court found no evidence that the agency performed a nationwide class investigation and dismissed the claims. The EEOC appealed.
The appeals court vacated the district court’s dismissal order and remanded the case for further proceedings, finding that the lower court improperly considered the sufficiency of the EEOC investigation. The appeals court found that, based on the investigator’s testimony that he reviewed the appropriate files, assessed all charges and requested documents from the parties, the EEOC had properly investigated the claims against Sterling. In reaching its decision, the appeals court reasoned that courts should respect the EEOC’s wide discretion under Title VII.
Don't expect to be able to dispute the sufficiency of an EEOC investigation if the investigator produces an affidavit outlining the steps that he or she took to look into the allegations against an employer.
Sharon A. Lim is an attorney with Marr Jones & Wang, the Worklaw® Network member firm in Honolulu.
Updated Test to Determine Intern Status Under FLSA
Twenty-five former students in a nurse anesthesiology degree program will have their collective-action wage claims evaluated using an updated test under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. The court concluded that the six-factor test that has long been used by the Department of Labor to determine intern status did not accurately reflect current law on this issue.
Court Clarifies How to Prove Constructive Discharge
To prevail on a constructive discharge claim, an employee must show both that her working conditions had become intolerable and that her employer acted in a way that would communicate to a reasonable worker that employment would be terminated imminently, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. A worker who was told she would be disciplined for insubordination but who quit her job before the employer determined what form that discipline would take could not show that she was constructively discharged.
WARN Act Applies If Government Enforcement Is Foreseeable
An employer may be liable under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act for failing to comply with the act’s notification provisions when mass layoffs occur due to foreseeable government enforcement action, according to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The WARN Act requires that employers give a 60-day notice to affected employees before a plant closing or mass layoff. The full notice period is not required if the closing is caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time the notice would have been required. The most important indicator of an unforeseeable circumstance is whether the situation is caused by some sudden, dramatic or unexpected action or condition outside the employer’s control, the court said.
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