Supreme Court Affirms Rights to Challenge Agency Actions in EEOC Case

Date: May 04, 2015

Supreme Court Affirms Rights to Challenge Agency Actions in EEOC Case

Last week the NFIB Small Business Legal Center applauded the
Supreme Court for its holding in Mach
Mining v. EEOC
. In that case a business sought to contest the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) authority to bring a civil action
against it for alleged discriminatory employment practices. While EEOC is
charged with enforcing our federal civil rights laws in the workplace, federal
law also requires EEOC to attempt to conciliate with the parties involved in a
dispute before initiating a lawsuit. But when the Mach Mining company raised
this point in court—arguing that EEOC could not bring its civil action against
the company because it had failed to engage in any good faith conciliation
efforts—EEOC argued that defendant companies cannot raise this statutory
violation as a defense to the suit.

We were immensely pleased with the decision in Mach Mining because the Supreme
Court affirmed that businesses can raise EEOC’s failure to conciliate as a
defense. As we emphasized in our press
, it’s always preferable if legal disputes can be worked out without
dropping the hammer on a small business. To be sure, Congress wanted EEOC to
attempt conciliation because that promotes the social goals embodied in federal
civil rights laws and in a less costly manner than a full-out lawsuit. To be
sure, things get immensely costly—for business defendants and taxpayers
alike—when EEOC goes to court.

Of course we think this is an important decision because it
emphasizes that agencies are limited in power and are not free to ignore plain
statutory mandates. But it was also important in reaffirming the principle that
individuals and businesses have the right to challenge agency actions (or in
this case, inaction). Remarkably, this is not the first time we’ve had to
weigh-in to defend this principle in federal court. And it won’t likely be the
last. In fact, we expect the Environmental Protection Agency will soon be
appealing a decision from the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeal holding that
landowners have a right to contest the agency’s assertion of jurisdiction over
their property. For more
on that case
, Pacific Legal Foundation’s Reed Hopper offers commentary over
at the PLF Liberty Blog. And for more on Mach
, the Washington Post offers a fine summary here.

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