Not many HR pros would protest this recent trend that’s affecting some of the biggest employers in the U.S.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been ordered to pay an Iowa-based trucking firm $4.7 million in attorney’s fees and expenses.

The case harkens back to 2007, when the agency filed a class-action sexual harassment lawsuit against CRST Van Expedited, Inc.

The case alleged that male drivers who’d been assigned to train female drivers on the road were:

  • demanded sex in exchange for recommendations that they be hired as permanent drivers
  • propositioned the women, and
  • even raped them.

The case wound its way through the court system and eventually the 270 women in the original case were whittled down to one — Monika Starke, the woman who filed the original complaint.

Last year, a district court ordered the EEOC to pay the company $4.5 million for their “sue first, ask questions later” tactics.”

The EEOC appealed, and the the district court again ruled in the company’s favor, writing “the EEOC cannot avoid liability for attorneys’ fees simply by artfully crafting a complaint using vague language to hide frivolous allegations.”

Earlier this year, Starke settled her case for $50,000.

Mistakes, mistakes, mistakes

This is most certainly not the first time that a federal agency has had to pay for its mistakes in court. Here’s proof:

  • Last summer the EEOC was ordered to pay $752,000 for filing an ‘unreasonable’ lawsuit against Peoplemark regarding the firm’s criminal background check policy.
    The agency claimed the company’s policy had a disparate impact on African-American and Hispanic employees — even though the company produced statistical analysis proving that wasn’t the case. Still, the EEOC continued to pursue the matter in court.
    A judge later wrote that “once the EEOC became aware that its assertion that Peoplemark categorically refused to hire any person with a criminal record was not true, or once the EEOC should have known that, it was unreasonable for the EEOC to continue to litigate on the basis of that claim, thereby driving up defendant’s costs, because it knew it would not be able to prove its case.”
  • Just last month, the Department of Labor settled a lawsuit with a former employee for $820,000.
    In that case, the DOL allegedly fired a 37-year employee after he began talking to the press about failures in the agency’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) division.

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