EEOC Gets Overzealous - Protect Your Chicago Business

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is taking a hard line against employment discrimination, expanding its litigation efforts twelve-fold in the last five years. The increased enforcement has caused many in the business community to question the validity of these cases and the commission's tactics.

Our Chicago small business attorneys understand that just last year, the EEOC compelled more than 40 companies, including Verizon and United Airlines, to shell out more than $60 million either in settlements or judgments, following a series of large, class-action discrimination cases.

In a number of cases, many business owners are willing to simply settle, rather than become ensnared in a protracted legal battle, which would be a drain on resources and would undoubtedly hurt the company's image.

Most businesses do everything possible to avoid discrimination in hiring practices, internal mobility, compensation and benefits, and other aspects of the employment relationship. An employment attorney can assist you in establishing internal policies that will serve to insulate you from these kind of allegations as much as possible. However, the bigger you become, the more susceptible you are to targeting.

And the fact is, all it takes is one allegation to draw the EEOC's attention. In these situations, it's critical that you seek an experienced Chicago business lawyer to defend your interests and those of your company.

Penalties and settlements can be pricey. For example, a Chicago Ridge trucking company in June was compelled to settle a racial discrimination case for $11 million.

This is just one example, but such cases are becoming increasingly prevalent. In fact, in 2006, there were about 50 active investigations being handled by the EEOC. Last year, there were almost 600.

This is undoubtedly driving up legal costs and making certain investments riskier. While the agency claims to be acting in the name of discrimination eradication, the dramatic spike would suggest the agency is likely overreaching in most cases - a point specifically made by several federal judges in a number of recent rulings.

In fact, in three recent cases, judges at the federal level held that the commission's claims should not have been filed as class action cases, and due to the agency's failure to prove the claim, they were made to cover the company's attorneys fees and other costs.

In one, a judge awarded $2.6 million in legal fees to a uniform maker in Ohio, after ruling that the EEOC hadn't proved that the company was discriminating against women. In another case, a judge awarded $750,000 to a temp agency in Kentucky, saying that the agency didn't have enough proof to show the agency was using background checks to eliminate minority job candidates.

The EEOC is appealing these decisions, but it shows that at least in a portion of these cases, the agency is quick to press forward with investigation and litigation - despite having little to no real proof.

It's worth noting, too, that the EEOC is working with far more resources than in previous years. Under President George W. Bush, the federal agency was cut by about 25 percent. When President Barack Obama took office, the agency was restored to its former size, and has hired hundreds more new investigators to take on cases.

This puts almost every business at potential risk.

We can help you protect your interests and those of your business.

Jeremy A. Gibson & Associates is a law firm dedicated to business litigation in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois. Call 877-452-4529 for a free consultation.

Additional Resources:
Government turns heat on employers over job bias, By Sam Hananel, Associated Press