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Senate votes to repeal EEOC settlement rule that ID’ed bias victims

2 minute read

The seal of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is seen in their office in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

  • Rule would give employers more information about discrimination complaints
  • Critics say rule would delay cases and invite retaliation

(Reuters) - The Democrat-led U.S. Senate on Wednesday voted along party lines to repeal a Trump-era Equal Employment Opportunity Commission rule that would overhaul the pre-litigation settlement process, including by giving employers more information about discrimination complaints.

The Senate voted 50-48 in favor of a joint resolution disapproving the January rule, sending it to the U.S. House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass.

The rule would require the EEOC to provide information to employers upon initiating the settlement, or "conciliation," process, including a summary of the facts of a case, the identities of witnesses and alleged victims, and the legal basis for a finding that discrimination has occurred.

The Republican-led commission said the changes would encourage settlements by allowing employers to weigh the merits of bias complaints early on in the process. Employers agreed to settlements only 41% of the time between fiscal years 2016 and 2019, according to the EEOC.

But critics of the rule said it would divert the EEOC's limited resources away from combating discrimination and delay cases, including by creating a new avenue for time-consuming appeals.

Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat from Washington who chairs the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, said during a floor debate that the rule would tip the scales in favor of employers and invite retaliation by allowing employers to identify victims and witnesses.

"That rule was designed to make it easier for employers to delay or deny justice to workers who have experienced discrimination on the job," Murray said.

Michael Lotito, a partner at Littler Mendelson who represents employers, said it was disappointing that lawmakers had chosen to throw out the sensible process created by the rule.

“It is a nod to the plaintiff’s trial bar (and) it will only encumber transparent investigations,” Lotito said.

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