Title VII

Rebuffed is enough the Supreme Court ruled in CRST Van Expedited v. EEOC.

More specifically, employers who prevail in Title VII employment discrimination cases may recover attorney’s fees if they are able to “rebuff” employee’s claims for any reason—including reasons not related to the merits of the claims.   

Title VII allows prevailing employers in frivolous Title VII employment discrimination lawsuits to collect a reasonable attorney’s fee. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brings lawsuits on behalf of aggrieved employees. But before doing so it has a statutory obligation to investigate, find reasonable cause the employer violated Title VII, and conciliate the dispute.

On Monday the Supreme Court heard oral argument in CRST Van Expedited v. EEOC where it will decide whether an employer is a prevailing party where a court dismissed a Title VII case because the EEOC failed to meet its pre-lawsuit obligations.

In EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores the Supreme Court held 8-1 that to bring a religious accommodation claim an applicant or employee need only show that his or her need for a religious accommodation was a motivating factor in an employment decision. The State and Local Legal Center (SLLC) filed an amicus brief arguing that to bring a failure to accommodate claim the applicant/employee should have to notify the employer of the need for a religious accommodation.

Abercrombie & Fitch’s “Look Policy,” prohibits employees from wearing “caps” because they are too informal for the store’s desired image. Samantha Elauf wore a head scarf to an interview at Abercrombie but didn’t ask for a religious accommodation. The assistant store manager who interviewed Elauf told the district manager she believed Elauf wore the headscarf for religious reasons. The district manager decided Elauf should not be hired as headwear worn for any reason violates Abercrombie’s “Look Policy.”

In Green v. Donahoe the Supreme Court will decide for purposes of federal employment discrimination law when the filing period for a constructive discharge claim begins to run. The Court’s choices are:  when an employee resigns or the employer's last allegedly discriminatory act. Often these two events occur at the same time, but not in this case.

This case will apply to constructive discharge claims brought against state and local government employers under Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, all of which must first be brought to the attention of the EEOC before a court.

In Mach Mining v. EEOC the Supreme Court held unanimously that a court may review whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) satisfied its statutory obligation to attempt to conciliate employment discrimination claims before filing a lawsuit.

The Court’s decision is favorable to employers, including state and local governments, who benefit from the EEOC’s statutory mandate to try to resolve employment discrimination cases before suing employers. If the EEOC fails to try to conciliate employers may sue the EEOC.   

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