California Labor and Employment Defense Blog

The EEOC's Insatiable Appetite For Publicity In The Litigation Process

Any company that has had to defend a case against the EEOC knows of the special aggravation associated with litigation against the Federal Government. Unlike private litigants, who are motivated primarily by money, the EEOC often pursues political, ideological or bureaucratic agendas that can seem downright baffling to private sector lawyers. For example, the EEOC will often pursue claims that the supposed “victim” does not even wish to pursue – the EEOC lost a case recently against Universal where the individual on behalf who the EEOC was litigating the case settled out of court privately, but the EEOC still litigated the case.  Read more about the EEOC's loss here. 

Furthermore, as noted recently by Judge Frederick J. Martone of the Federal District Court of Arizona (who had distinguished career on Arizona’s Supreme Court prior to being appointed to Federal Court) in E.E.O.C. v. Serrano's Mexican Restaurants, LLC, that the EEOC should not utilize press releases as a litigation tool – a common practice by the EEOC. Judge Martone stated:

Our denial of the defendant’s motion is not an expression of our view on the underlying merits or the propriety of the EEOC in using press releases as part of its approach to litigation. Lawyers have a professional obligation to avoid extrajudicial statements that may prejudice a proceeding, see ER 3.6, and an obligation to be truthful in statements to others, see ER 4.1. LRCiv 83.2(d). There is a big difference between promoting the public’s right to know through keeping proceedings public, on the one hand, see Foltz v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 331 F.3d 1122 (9th Cir. 2003), and affirmatively issuing press releases, on the other. The United States, and its employees, have a special duty not to injure the reputations of its citizens. Nor should it use press releases as a bargaining tool in litigation.

Judge Martone’s comments are refreshing for employers and individuals who have had to litigate cases against the EEOC and to provide some good language for parties disputing the EEOC’s usual practice of issuing press releases upon settling a case. Hopefully many more judges in the Ninth Circuit follow Judge Martone’s example. 

[Hat tip to Jottings By An Employment Lawyer.]

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