The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a lower court ruling awarding the CRST trucking company $4.7 million in legal fees. A lower court had awarded the fees after it determined the EEOC failed to conduct its conciliation process in good faith.
The EEOC had filed 157 charges of sexual harassment against the company, alleging that female drivers were subjected to “unwelcome sexual conduct, other unwelcome physical touching, propositions for sex, and sexual comments from their lead drivers or team drivers.”
Ultimately, the EEOC settled only one of those cases with CRST for $50,000. In 67 cases, the court ruled the EEOC did not properly conciliate the disputes before filing suit.
CRST sought attorneys’ fees for those cases and the district court awarded it $4.7 million.
But the 8th Circuit threw out that award, claiming that CRST was not the prevailing party. It said “conciliation is a nonjurisdictional, pre-suit requirement, not an element of a sexual harassment claim.”
The appeals court remanded attorneys’ fee determinations on the remaining cases to the lower court for a case-by-case determination.