The EEOC is supposed to engage in a conciliation process before suing employers for alleged employment violations. But sometimes the agency comes out with guns blazing, demanding a huge payment to settle a complaint.
Some employers naturally respond negatively—and they may even walk away without further discussions. One employer recently did just that, and then tried to get a federal court to dismiss the EEOC lawsuit.
It said the EEOC refused to conciliate in good faith and should therefore not be allowed to pursue the claim in court. It didn’t work.
Recent case: Derrick Morgan worked at a McDonald’s restaurant. He was demoted when his performance didn’t meet expectations. Then he found a job at a grocery store, but told the McDonald’s franchise he wanted to remain on call for extra hours.
After a month, the franchise concluded Morgan had quit. Then it received an EEOC complaint notice and order to appear at a conciliation meeting. That’s when it learned that Morgan claimed he was either disabled or perceived as disabled.
At the initial conciliation meeting, the EEOC investigator offered to settle the case for $304,000. The McDonald’s franchise owner countered with a $5,000 offer and requested information on the claimed disability. The investigator said it was a mental disability and that at least one manager had admitted he knew Morgan was disabled.
Morgan rejected the $5,000 offer; the EEOC countered with $199,000. That’s when the employer walked out.
The EEOC sued and the franchise asked the court to toss out the case because of what it said were bad-faith negotiations.
The court refused. It said the EEOC has broad latitude in offering settlements and can sue when employers walk out. (EEOC v. Alia, No. 1:11-CV-01549, ED CA, 2012)