In a decision sure to bring a smile to the faces of countless employers, a federal judge has ordered the EEOC to pay $2.6 million in legal fees and costs for the way it handled a decade-long lawsuit against an Ohio company.
The case, which began in 2000, involved Cintas Corp., a uniform supply firm. It’s a long and twisted tale, complete with numerous legal motions, cross-claims and other legal maneuvers.
But it all really comes down to this, taken directly from the court decision:
… (F)rom the date that this case began, the EEOC had not yet identified any of the individual plaintiffs on whose behalf it sought to pursue a (gender bias) claim.
Finally, after the EEOC initially identified approximately 40 individual plaintiffs, only seven of these individuals … were identified as part of these 40 claimants.
Later, it was revealed that a number of these seven individuals testified that they did not believe they had claims against Cintas or testified they did not intend to advance claims against Cintas at all.
The Court agrees with Cintas when it states that the EEOC engaged in a “reckless ‘sue first, ask questions later’ strategy.”
The good news, according to DeGroff and Maatman: “Employers (now) have ammunition to make the government think twice about bringing and/or continuing to prosecute facially meritless claims.”
Actually, the EEOC got off relatively cheaply. Cintas had originally asked for about $1.1 million in costs and $4.6 million in attorneys’ fees. But after a lot of technical legal wrangling, the court cut the total award to $2.6 million.
The case is EEOC v. Cintas Corp. To read all the gory details of the full decision, go here.