EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION v. MACH MINING, LLC
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received a complaint from a woman who claimed Mach Mining, LLC (Mach Mining) denied her a job because of her gender. The EEOC determined that there was reasonable cause to believe Mach Mining had discriminated against female applicants and began conciliation, but the parties ultimately could not agree and the EEOC sued on the female applicants’ behalf. Mach Mining argued that the EEOC did not conciliate in good faith, and the EEOC moved for summary judgment on whether failure to conciliate in good faith is a viable defense to its suit for unlawful discrimination. The district court denied the motion and held that courts may review the EEOC’s informal settlement efforts to determine whether the EEOC made a sincere and reasonable effort to negotiate.
Nonetheless, the court certified the question to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. The appellate court reversed and held that, so long as the EEOC has pleaded that it complied with Title VII and the relevant documents are facially sufficient, judicial review is satisfied. The appellate court noted that Title VII gives the EEOC complete discretion to accept or reject settlement offers during informal conciliation and provides no standard to evaluate the failure-to-conciliate affirmative defense. Therefore, the appellate court determined that allowing an employer to use failure-to-conciliate as an affirmative defense would protract and complicate employment discrimination cases.
Are the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s conciliation efforts judicially reviewable and, if so, to what extent?