U.S. Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Attorney's Fee Issue In Title VII Case

Volume 14, Issue 28
December 15, 2015

US Supreme Court

On December 4, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the matter of CRST Van Expedited, Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The Court will consider whether the employer in this case is entitled to an award of attorney's fees following the dismissal of a Title VII claim due to the EEOC's failure to satisfy its pre-litigation obligations.

In many lawsuits, the parties each pay their own attorney's fees and costs. Sometimes a court can shift fees, however, and require a party to pay the other party's fees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act permits this type of fee shifting when one party is the "prevailing party."

In this class action sex discrimination case filed under Title VII, the court dismissed the claims of 67 plaintiffs due to the EEOC's failure to take the steps it is required to complete before filing a lawsuit against an employer - specifically, investigate the plaintiffs' charges of discrimination, determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe the charges are true, and attempt to remedy the discrimination informally with the employer. In dismissing the claims, the court also ordered the EEOC to pay the fees and costs the employer incurred in defending them.

However, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed. This appellate court determined that the employer was not a prevailing party because it had not won the case on the merits. Instead, it had won against the EEOC on a procedural violation. Accordingly, the Eighth Circuit Court determined that the employer was not a prevailing party under Title VII.

We will keep you posted on the Supreme Court's ruling in this matter.

KZA Employer Report articles are for general information only; they are not intended and should not be construed to be legal advice. Reading or replying to such articles does not establish an attorney-client relationship. In addition, because the subject matters and applicable laws discussed in Employer Report articles are often in a state of change and not always applicable to every type of business entity or organization, readers should consult with counsel before making decisions based on the same.