Good news for employers: If the EEOC takes too long to investigate a case and initiate a lawsuit, a court may toss it out.
Although technically the EEOC has unlimited time to sue, as a practical matter employers can get cases dismissed if they can show undue delay and that the delay hurt their ability to come up with a defense.
Recent case: Michael worked as a supervisor at a Propak Logistics warehouse in Shelby for about two months. After he was fired, he complained to the EEOC that he had been terminated for complaining about hiring practices. He said that non-Hispanic applicants were being passed over for jobs and that Propak only fired employees who weren’t Hispanic.
The EEOC held on to the case from 2003 until late 2008, when it concluded that Propak had discriminated against non-Hispanics. By then, the Shelby warehouse had closed.
Still, about a year later, the EEOC filed a federal lawsuit seeking class-action certification. The company asked for the case to be dismissed, arguing that it couldn’t locate witnesses or records after so many years and after the facility closed.
The court agreed that the company had been prejudiced by the delays and dismissed the case. (EEOC v. Propak Logistics, No. 1:09-CV-311, WD NC, 2012)
Final note: Will the EEOC now move cases faster? It’s hard to tell, given budget constraints. Don’t be shy about raising delay as a defense if a lawsuit comes years after the complaint.