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Courts can review if EEOC negotiated sufficiently before filing suit

Courts can review if EEOC negotiated sufficiently before filing suit

Federal courts have the right to review whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission worked hard enough to settle job discrimination charges before filing suit against employers, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

While federal law requires the EEOC to try to negotiate settlements before filing charges, at issue is whether courts have the authority to review whether the EEOC worked hard enough to seek a settlement before filing charges.

Without such a review, the EEOC's “compliance with the law would rest in the commission's hands alone,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the nation's highest court. “This court has so long applied a strong presumption favoring judicial review of administrative action.”

The case involves an Illinois mining company, Mach Mining L.L.C., which the EEOC sued for not hiring qualified female job applicants. Mach Mining argued that the suit should be dismissed because the federal agency didn't work hard enough to seek a settlement before filing suit.

In 2013, the 7th U.S. Circuit of Appeals in Chicago ruled that employers cannot use the EEOC's failure to seek conciliation as a defense. The Supreme Court remanded the case back to the lower court to determine if the EEOC has done enough to resolve the issue before filing suit.

“The Supreme Court's decision brings to an end an era in which employers charged with discrimination could too often defend EEOC lawsuits by fighting about conciliation. This is a step forward for civil rights on the job and common sense in the administration of justice,” EEOC Chicago Regional District Attorney John Hendrickson said in a statement commenting on the Supreme Court's ruling.

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