The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has always engaged in a pre-suit process. But until recently, that procedure may have only consisted of a demand letter or two. After a cursory investigation, the agency often abandoned these cases.
That all changed with 2015’s Mach Mining v. EEOC. In this case, the Supreme Court directed the agency to do more before filing suit. It must now gather facts and negotiate in good faith with employers. While the EEOC still picks and chooses the cases that it handles, this exhaustive process gives employment discrimination attorneys an important leg up during subsequent proceedings.
Types of Employment Discrimination in Chicago
It is not illegal to harbor ill will against a certain group of people. However, it is usually illegal to act on these feelings. In the employment context, it is usually illegal if these feelings even influence an entry or exit-level decision, such as hiring or firing. Some common types of discrimination include:
- Sexual Orientation: The Civil Rights Act clearly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation. Gender identity, a related issue, is still an emerging area of law. Some courts have held that any discrimination against LGBTQ people is illegal, while others have allowed it in some situations.
- Age: These cases are an exception to one of the general rules mentioned above. To win an age discrimination claim, the plaintiff must prove that age was the sole motivating factor in the decision, as opposed to a primary factor. This issue comes up quite often in downsizing cases, wherein employers lay off older workers who generally make more money in favor of younger and cheaper employees.
- National Origin: Even in the 21st century, many workers must deal with racial animus at work. Many other cases deal with English-only workplaces. Only certain jobs may include good English skills as a job qualification.
If there is a prima facie discrimination case, the defendant has a chance to present a non-discriminatory reason for the decision. The aforementioned English-only case is a good example. A worker may claim that such a policy is designed to exclude Latinos. However, the employer may insist that the English-only policy was a business decision geared toward customer preferences.
Because of Mach Mining, the EEOC must thoroughly investigate all discrimination claims. If the case is not a “slam dunk,” the agency may not be interested in pursuing it. But the investigation process makes it easier to prove a claim in civil court.
Probable Outcomes of an EEOC Case
Most discrimination case resolutions include a rather small monetary penalty. There is usually also a brief period of court supervision and some vague employer promises to “do better.” These assurances may include posting discrimination notices and a few supervisor training programs. The EEOC does not represent individual workers. Instead, it is really only interested in notching a “win” that looks good on the year-end statistical profile sheet.
These things are not bad. In fact, in many cases, they are precisely the kind of corrective action that is required. Typically, the EEOC’s settlement offer serves as a baseline for an attorney. Because a lawyer represents victims, an attorney is not satisfied with the case’s giveaway value. So, a civil case usually results in a larger monetary damage award as well as a more restrictive consent decree.
Count on an Experienced Lawyer
The EEOC pre-suit settlement process is an important part of a discrimination case, but it is only the beginning. For a free consultation with an experienced employment law attorney in Chicago, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. After-hours visits are available.