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Mach Mining, LLC v. EEOC

Supreme Court of the United States

January 13, 2015, Argued; April 29, 2015, Decided

No. 13-1019

Opinion

Justice Kagan delivered the opinion of the Court.

Before suing an employer for discrimination, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission) must try to remedy unlawful workplace practices  [*483]  through informal methods of conciliation. This case requires us to decide whether and how courts may review those efforts. We [****6]  hold that a court may review whether the EEOC satisfied its statutory obligation to attempt conciliation before filing suit. But we find that the scope of that review is narrow, thus recognizing the EEOC’s extensive discretion to determine the kind and amount of communication with an employer appropriate in any given case.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 78 Stat. 241, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., sets out a detailed, multi-step procedure through which the Commission enforces the statute’s prohibition on employment discrimination. The process generally starts when “a person claiming to be aggrieved” files a charge of an unlawful workplace practice with the EEOC. §2000e-5(b). At that point, the EEOC notifies the employer of the complaint and undertakes an investigation. See ibid. If the Commission finds no “reasonable cause” to think that the allegation has merit, it dismisses the charge and notifies the parties. Ibid. The complainant may then pursue her own lawsuit if she chooses. See §2000e-5(f)(1).

If, on the other hand, the Commission finds reasonable cause, it must first “endeavor to eliminate [the] alleged unlawful employment practice by informal methods of conference, conciliation, and persuasion.” §2000e-5(b). To ensure candor in [****7]  those discussions, the statute limits the disclosure and use of the participants’ statements: “Nothing said or done during and as a part of such informal endeavors” may be publicized by the Commission or “used as evidence in a subsequent proceeding without the written consent of the persons concerned.” Ibid. The statute leaves to the EEOC the ultimate decision whether to accept a settlement or instead to bring a lawsuit. So long as “the Commission has been unable to secure from the respondent a conciliation  [*484]  agreement acceptable to the Commission” itself, the  [**1650]  EEOC may sue the employer. §2000e-5(f)(1).

This case began when a woman filed a charge with the EEOC claiming that petitioner Mach Mining, LLC, had refused to hire her as a coal  [***613]  miner because of her sex. The Commission investigated the allegation and found reasonable cause to believe that Mach Mining had discriminated against the complainant, along with a class of women who had similarly applied for mining jobs. See App. 15. In a letter announcing that determination, the EEOC invited both the company and the complainant to participate in “informal methods” of dispute resolution, promising that a Commission representative would soon “contact [****8]  [them] to begin the conciliation process.” Id., at 16. The record does not disclose what happened next. But about a year later, the Commission sent Mach Mining a second letter, stating that “such conciliation efforts as are required by law have occurred and have been unsuccessful” and that any further efforts would be “futile.” Id., at 18-19.

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575 U.S. 480 *; 135 S. Ct. 1645 **; 191 L. Ed. 2d 607 ***; 2015 U.S. LEXIS 2984 ****; 83 U.S.L.W. 4283; 126 Fair Empl. Prac. Cas. (BNA) 1521; 98 Empl. Prac. Dec. (CCH) P45,300; 25 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 224

MACH MINING, LLC, Petitioner v. EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION

Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT

EEOC v. Mach Mining, LLC, 738 F.3d 171, 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 25454 (7th Cir. Ill., 2013)

Disposition: 738 F. 3d 171, vacated and remanded.

CORE TERMS

conciliation, compliance, endeavor, prerequisite, negotiate, bargaining, persuasion, workplace, lawsuit

Labor & Employment Law, US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Civil Actions, Reasonable Cause & Conciliation, Administrative Law, Judicial Review, Reviewability, General Overview, Reviewable Agency Action