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Labor And Employment Cases To Watch In 2015 - Mach Mining v. EEOC

Law360—Ben James

Mach Mining v. EEOC

Mach Mining is challenging a December 2013 Seventh Circuit ruling on an interlocutory appeal that stemmed from a bias case brought by the EEOC over the company's alleged failure to hire women.

According to the company, the Seventh Circuit broke with decades of precedent and wrongly held that courts can't delve into whether the EEOC has satisfied its statutory obligation to try to informally resolve claims before hauling an employer into court.

The EEOC didn't oppose Mach Mining's petition for Supreme Court review, saying that while the Seventh Circuit was correct, high court intervention was appropriate because the issue was important and had divided federal appeals courts.

The key question in the case — whether courts can review EEOC conciliation and possibly toss a suit if they decide those efforts don't pass muster — could have a big impact on the EEOC's presuit interactions with employers, lawyers say. 

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Outten & Golden LLP's Paul Mollica noted a long-standing split among federal courts as to whether an EEOC enforcement action could be dismissed over allegedly insufficient conciliation efforts. 

While some lawyers complain that the Seventh Circuit's approach permits the EEOC to take a hard-line, take-it-or-leave-it approach to what are supposed to be good faith conciliation efforts, Mollica said the appeals court got it right.

"Because Title VII nowhere states that dismissal is an appropriate remedy for a supposed failure to conciliate, and because the defense is essentially 'I know it when I see it,' standardless review — completely unpredictable — I would hope that the court would affirm [Seventh Circuit Judge David] Hamilton's sensible decision in Mach Mining," Mollica said. 

Oral arguments are set for Jan. 13.

The case is Mach Mining LLC v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, case number 13-1019, in the U.S. Supreme Court.