Labor & Employment

EEOC Hit with $4.5M Legal Fee Award in Losing 'Pattern & Practice' Case, Plans Appeal

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A federal judge has ordered the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to pay an Iowa trucking company’s $4.56 million legal bill after dismissing what she characterized as a pattern and practice sexual harassment lawsuit brought by the federal agency in 2007 on behalf of female drivers.

Although “not unprecedented,” a fee award to a prevailing defendant is discretionary with the judge under the relevant statute, and one of this magnitude “carries a message,” partner John Mathias Jr. of Jenner & Block tells the ABA Journal.

His firm, along with Iowa-based Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman, represented defendant CRST Van Expedited Inc. in the sexual harassment case, notes a National Law Journal article about the $4.56 million award.

In a key ruling (PDF) in the case last year, the Northern District of Iowa granted CRST’s summary judgment motion and dismissed with prejudice the EEOC’s pattern and practice claim, according to a statement from the law firm.

Another order (PDF) followed earlier this month, in which Chief Judge Linda Reade of the Northern District recaps the blistering criticisms she made of the EEOC’s handling of the case in earlier rulings and renders an opinion on October 2009 filings that sought roughly $8.5 million in attorney fees, expenses and costs on CRST’s behalf.

“The EEOC believes the court’s decisions in the case were wrongfully decided and the agency will be appealing,” EEOC Deputy General Counsel James Lee tells the National Law Journal.

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