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Supreme Court Rules Unanimously in Mach Mining v. EEOC

Tags:  (2015 May 1st - 1:20pm)

In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court, in Mach Mining, LLC v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), ruled that courts do have the power to review the EEOC’s efforts to settle a Title VII complaint with an employer before it decides to sue the employer. The decision settles a split among appeals courts about how deeply courts can examine the EEOC’s settlement efforts.

A woman filed a complaint with the EEOC claiming that Mach Mining failed to hire her as a coal miner because of her sex. The EEOC investigated the allegation and found reasonable cause to believe that Mach Mining had discriminated against women who had applied for coal mining jobs. The Commission sent letters inviting the complainant and Mach Mining to participate in an informal dispute resolution. A year later, the Commission sent a second letter to Mach Mining stating that because conciliation efforts had been unsuccessful the EEOC was proceeding with a sex discrimination suit against the company. Mach Mining denied the allegations and asserted that the “EEOC had failed to conciliate in good faith before filing suit.” The EEOC filed for summary judgement against Mach Mining on the grounds that its conciliation efforts are not reviewable by courts. The question before the Court was whether the EEOC’s conciliation efforts are subject to judicial review.

Writing for the Court, Justice Kagan, said “judicial review of administrative actions is the norm in our legal system, and nothing in Title VII withdraws the courts’ authority to determine whether the EEOC has fulfilled its duty to attempt conciliation of claims.” However, judicial review is narrow and limited to ensuring that the EEOC informed the employer of the specific discrimination alleged and then gave the employer an opportunity to remedy the alleged discrimination. The EEOC can satisfy judicial review by simply filing an affidavit detailing the steps it took to settle with the employer. To discredit the EEOC's affidavit, the employer has to have concrete evidence that the EEOC did not attempt to settle. The Court remanded the case to the lower court to determine whether the EEOC had fulfilled its duty.

Full text of the Court's decision