CHICAGO – The number of workplace harassment lawsuits filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has spiked during the past four years, a Chicago lawyer says.
As described in a blog post published at workplaceclassaction.com, "with two Republican Commissioners and the general counsel position still unconfirmed, it is difficult to discern if things will truly be 'business as usual' under Trump or if those appointments, once confirmed, will change agency course. One thing is certain: the EEOC’s litigation program is not slowing down any time soon."
Attorney Gerald Maatman Jr. of Seyfarth Shaw Fairweather, one of the authors of the post, told the Cook County Record that there are two significant trends in the suits: "The increase in cases filed by the EEOC despite a proclaimed business-friendly president in the White House, and the increase in workplace harassment lawsuits following the establishment of the #MeToo movement."
In regards to what is fueling the lawsuit trends, Maatman said:"The first trend is due to the delay in the confirmation of the new Trump appointees to leadership positions with the EEOC; their likely pro-business approaches to policy questions and litigation issues have yet to impact the Commission."
Gerald Maatman Jr. Seyfarth Shaw
The second trend, he said, "is the result of the media attention to the #MeToo movement and the increase in workers’ rights and the resulting increase in charges and lawsuits asserting workplace harassment."
The attorney said business owners should keep in mind the power of the commission in litigation.
"It means that employers must be mindful that the EEOC remains an aggressive litigant, and the prospect of an EEOC lawsuit is a significant event for a business," Maatman said.
When it comes to what is different now compared to years prior, Maatman explained that the amount of filings under the first full year of the Trump administration is higher "than in past years."
"Case filing decisions made in the field offices of the EEOC are apt to be different once the full complement of headquarters decision-makers take their seats upon Senate confirmation," Maatman said.
As to how the courts are receiving the harassment suits, Maatman said it was a "mixed bag," and the commission's success rate "has not increased over the past year," as it "wins and loses cases just like any other agency."
Maatman sees a decrease in the number of EEOC lawsuits in the near future.
"I expect to see less suits in the future as a result of Trump’s nominees being confirmed by the Senate, and taking leadership roles with the EEOC and changing the direction of its litigation enforcement program," Maatman said.