Sex discrimination remains a serious problem in many professional fields. While it may seem inconceivable that in 2016 there women are still barred from entire classes of jobs, in reality that is sadly still the case. And even when the federal government intervenes to put an end to such practices, it can take many years of litigation just to get a court to answer the question of whether illegal sex discrimination exists.
Here in Illinois, federal officials have spent years fighting sex discrimination at a Johnston City-based coal mining operation that has allegedly never hired a single woman to work as a miner. Indeed, investigators for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) discovered the company “did not even have a women’s bathroom on its mining premises.” Based on complaints from women who said they were unable to obtain mining jobs, the EEOC determined there was evidence of widespread sex discrimination dating back to at least 2006.
But before the EEOC can actually sue an employer for sex discrimination, federal law requires an attempt at “conciliation.” Basically this is where the EEOC attempts to resolve any discrimination issues with an employer without the need for formal legal proceedings. Conciliation failed in this case, however, and the EEOC sued the mining company in Illinois federal court.
This led to extended litigation over the sufficiency of the EEOC’s conciliation efforts. Eventually the United States Supreme Court weighed in on the issue. Justice Elena Kagan, writing for a unanimous court in 2015, said the EEOC “must try to engage the employer in some form of discussion (whether written or oral), so as to give the employer an opportunity to remedy the allegedly discriminatory practice.” At the same time, Justice Kagan said the courts should not second-guess “how to conduct conciliation efforts and when to end them.” That was at the discretion of the agency.
In short, an employer cannot use the EEOC’s conciliation process as an excuse to avoid answering for serious charges of employment discrimination in court. To that end, the judge in the mining company case recently issued an order barring the employer from asserting such an argument as an affirmative defense. The underlying discrimination case has yet to be tried.
There is nothing simple about any type of employment discrimination case. Employers will use every legal tactic at their disposal to delay resolution of a case for years if possible. Meanwhile it is the innocent employee who suffers.
That is why it is critical to never try and handle a discrimination case on your own. An experienced Roselle sex and age discrimination attorney can assist you with every step of your case, from making initial contact with the discriminatory employer to dealing with government officials and representing your interests in court. If you need help with any type of employment discrimination case, contact the Law Office of Michael T. Smith today.