EEOC Class Suit Charges Company with Discrimination Against Men
BALTIMORE – A federal court has ruled that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may proceed to trial with its class sex discrimination lawsuit against L.A. Weight Loss Centers, Inc. (LAWL) on behalf of qualified male applicants nationwide.
In his ruling, U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles, Jr., of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, decisively rejected LAWL’s court filed motions to dismiss the case. The court held that the testimonial evidence alone that was presented by the EEOC, including discriminatory admissions by various high-level LAWL officials, entitled the EEOC to present its case at trial. The court also granted partial summary judgment to the EEOC regarding LAWL’s failure to maintain relevant employment records.
The EEOC sued LAWL in February 2002 under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act alleging that the company engaged in a pattern or practice of disparate treatment against men in its recruiting, hiring, and assignment of employees. In its suit (Civil Action No. WDQ-02-0648), the EEOC also charged that LAWL disciplined and ultimately terminated employee Kathy Koch, a trainer with the company, in retaliation for attempting to hire male applicants and for her complaints that LAWL failed to hire qualified male applicants because of their gender.
“We are pleased by the court’s ruling allowing the EEOC to proceed to trial,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Jacqueline McNair, whose Philadelphia District includes Maryland. “This case is an example of the EEOC’s focus on systemic litigation. Employers should be mindful that Title VII’s prohibition against sex discrimination protects men, as well as women, from being denied employment opportunities based on their gender.”
On March 9, 2007, LAWL filed a motion for summary judgment to dismiss the case, arguing that the EEOC could not establish a prima facie case that LAWL engaged in a pattern or practice of sex discrimination. LAWL also contended that Title VII’s limitations period for filing an individual charge of discrimination limited the scope of relief that the EEOC could obtain in a pattern or practice discrimination lawsuit.
The EEOC also filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that LAWL failed to comply with the statutory obligation to preserve records relevant to the retaliation claim on behalf of Koch, and to preserve hiring and other employment records relevant to the pattern or practice claim. The EEOC requested that the court issue an injunction requiring LAWL to preserve relevant records and give an adverse inference jury instruction regarding the destruction of these employment records.
The court held that in a pattern or practice case under Section 707 of Title VII, the EEOC's remedies are not limited by the 180 or 300-day period for filing an individual charge of discrimination. The court also granted an injunction and adverse jury instruction against LAWL based on its failure to preserve relevant evidence regarding EEOC's retaliation claim.
The EEOC litigation team in the case, led by EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Tracy Hudson Spicer, EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Corbett Anderson, and EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Ronald Philips, added, “The court's ruling is noteworthy because it reaffirms the important principle that the EEOC possesses broad statutory authority to remedy systemic violations of Title VII in their entirety, not simply portions of a systemic violation that happened to occur within the charge filing period applicable to individual plaintiffs. We’re pleased that a jury will have an opportunity to hear the evidence and decide this case.”
LAWL recently announced that it is changing its name to Pure Weight Loss, Inc., which describes itself as one of the largest weight loss companies nationwide with nearly 400 centers. More information about the company is available on its web site at www.pureweightloss.com.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability and retaliation. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.