No bling for EEOC: Judge blasts mishandling of bias claim

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

The EEOC had one of its long-running cases dismissed after a federal judge in Buffalo criticized the commission’s handling of a discrimination case against Sterling Jewelers.

Nine years ago, female employees alleged the company paid them less than similarly experienced male employees. In 2008, the EEOC claimed the company engaged in discriminatory practices throughout its nationwide network of 1,700 stores.

Sterling, which includes the Kay Jewelers chain, moved to have the case dismissed, arguing the EEOC could not conclude the company discriminated nationally when it had not obtained information in discovery that would justify that conclusion.

The EEOC claimed it relied on a statistician’s analysis to arrive at its conclusions. It never revealed the statistician’s report in discovery, allegedly making it impossible for the company’s to defend itself—and angering the judge.

The EEOC also accused Sterling of stonewalling its requests for information. That didn’t sit well with the judge either. He noted that the EEOC has an obligation to investigate and attempt to conciliate complaints before filing suit in federal court.

Note: The case shows the importance of retaining qualified legal counsel as soon as the EEOC is involved.

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