VanAntwerp Attorneys, LLP
Phone: 606-618-0698

EEOC backlog could encourage settlement in discrimination cases

It can be frustrating to settle a discrimination complaint. Most business owners would prefer to be vindicated. There are many good business reasons for settlement, however, such as limiting the lost time, cost and disruption a lawsuit can involve.

Many plaintiffs resist settlement, as well. They often hope that a trial will convince the company they once loved to change its policies. They may also wish to receive more in compensation than the company is offering.

Naturally, one consideration to weigh when considering a settlement is the alternative. In employment discrimination cases, that may be an investigation by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Depending on the outcome of that investigation, the EEOC may take on the plaintiff's case and begin a dispute resolution process with the business. Or, the agency may decline the case but issue a "right to sue" letter to the plaintiff, allowing them to take further legal action on their own.

EEOC investigations always take time, and that can have a major impact on the likelihood of settlement. However, the EEOC is currently experiencing a large influx of cases even as it deals with a substantial backlog. That means investigations will take even longer.

While it is unclear that more discrimination is occurring, the #MeToo movement has inspired many people to file complaints in recent months.

According to the Associated Press, the agency closed some 99,000 cases last year. In 70 percent, investigators were unable to immediately find evidence of discrimination. However, a spokesperson for the agency confirmed that scarce resources have led to investigators prioritizing the clearest cases and dismissing some without a full investigation -- sometimes without even a cursory one.

In 2016, about 20,000 cases made it to an EEOC administrative law judge. Some 13,500 were still in the queue at the end of the year. Last year, the average time required to resolve a private sector discrimination complaint was approximately 295 days.

Knowing that the complaint might not be resolved for a year or more is likely to encourage both sides to settle, and that can be a good thing. As time passes, evidence can be destroyed or become difficult to access. Witnesses' memories can fade. The emotional urgency can decline. If enough time passes, it can become difficult to try these cases.

The expected resolution time is only one factor among many in the settlement equation. Your employment law attorney can evaluate your case and your goals and make a specific recommendation in your particular situation.

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