Supreme Court rules on EEOC conciliation duty

The US Supreme Court on Wednesdayruled  that courts have authority to review whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has fulfilled its duty under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to attempt conciliation. Additionally, the court ruled that the appropriate scope of judicial review of the EEOC’s conciliation activities is narrow, enforcing only the EEOC’s statutory obligation to give the employer notice and an opportunity to achieve voluntary compliance. By limiting such review, EEOC discretion is protected while still ensuring that it follows the law. The case, Mach Mining, LLC v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [SCOTUSblog backgrounder], was brought after a woman filed a charge with the EEOC claiming that petitioner Mach Mining, LLC, had refused to hire her as a coal miner because of her sex. After finding reasonable cause to believe that Mach Mining had discriminated against the complainant, the EEOC then sued the company in federal district court alleging sex discrimination in hiring.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 directs the EEOC to try to negotiate [42 USC § 2000e-5(b)] an end to an employer’s unlawful employment practices before suing for a judicial remedy. Mach Mining sought dismissal of the EEOC’s suit on the ground that the agency failed to engage in good-faith conciliation before filing. Last year the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit [official website] ruled [opinion] that “an alleged failure to conciliate is not an affirmative defense to the merits of a discrimination suit.” The Supreme Court was asked to resolve the split among the circuits, calling on the court to interpret anti-discrimination statutory provisions.

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