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Press Release 01-22-2016

EEOC Suit Against Company That Has Never Hired a Woman Miner Can Proceed

Supreme Court Decision Ends Challenge To Agency Conciliation Process

CHICAGO--Relying upon the Supreme Court's 2015 decision in the case, the Southern District of Illinois on January 19th confirmed that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) could proceed with its sex discrimination action (Case No. 11 cv 00879) against Mach Mining, which operates a Johnston City, Ill. coal mine. Judge J. Phil Gilbert, to whom the case is assigned, rejected the company's attempt to use supposed flaws in the agency's pre-suit conciliation process as a basis for delay or dismissal of the case. 

In 2012, EEOC filed suit against Mach Mining alleging that it violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by failing to hire even a single woman for a mining position despite receiving applications from qualified women. The agency's complaint alleges that the company did not even have bathroom facilities for female miners.  

Mach Mining responded to the Commission's sex discrimination claims by trying to dismiss the agency's action on the basis of supposed failures in the statutorily required pre-suit conciliation process. The pre-suit conciliation process provides employers with an opportunity to come into voluntary compliance before the agency files an action in court.  

After decisions by both the District Court for the Southern District of Illinois and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, the Supreme Court ruled on whether the EEOC's pre-suit conciliation process is subject to judicial review. On April 29, 2015, the Court issued a unanimous opinion, holding that only "narrow" review is appropriate because only such "limited review respects the expansive discretion that Title VII gives the EEOC over the conciliation process," and that any failure by the agency to engage in conciliation is not a basis for dismissal of the agency's case. Even after that decision, Mach Mining continued in its attempt to maintain a conciliation-based affirmative defense.