Conciliation under attack in sex discrimination lawsuit

| Jan 21, 2015 | Uncategorized |

California workers may be interested in a lawsuit that is now in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. The lawsuit, originally filed in 2011 on behalf of a female miner by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has been undergoing fierce litigation over the agency’s use of conciliation in some cases.

Conciliation is a process through which the EEOC will allow some employers to negotiate a settlement in a sex discrimination case without a lawsuit being filed against the employer. Mach Mining, the defendant to the current lawsuit, alleges the process by which the EEOC determines which cases are appropriate for conciliation and which ones will instead be resolved through litigation should be transparent. The EEOC indicates that making the conciliation decision transparent would violate the worker’s rights. It had filed suit against Mach Mining for passing over a female miner who applied for a position as a coal miner, despite her qualifications for the position.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit sided with the EEOC, and the case is now headed to the nation’s highest court for its decision. In the past few years, Supreme Court decisions regarding sex discrimination cases have narrowed the rights of people to sue under Title VII, with Justice Ginsburg dissenting in each case. The outcome of the case remains to be seen, and it could potentially affect millions of workers across the country.

Workplace discrimination is prohibited under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. When the courts issue decisions in individual cases, they are interpreting the statutory provisions of the law. Each decision by a higher court thus potentially changes the landscape of the law, as decisions by higher courts control the decisions made by lower ones. Workers should be free to work in environments devoid of discriminatory practices.

Source: MSNBC, “Sex discrimination before the Supreme Court”, Irin Carmon, Jan. 13, 2015


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