EEOC v Swissport Fueling: Questionable Tactics Used by EEOC

EEOC-trial-tacticsThere have been countless complaints in recent years about the way the EEOC tackles cases.  They have been accused of being unnecessarily aggressive and unreasonable. The Commission has also been accused of hiring questionable experts and even presenting false information in court. 

These tactics cost companies time, aggravation and lots of money -- even if it’s determined they’ve done no wrong.  In the 2013 case EEOC v. Freeman, the judge gave a punishing rebuke to the Commission saying the lawsuit was “as frivolous and as dubious as they come.”  To read more on that case click here. Now another federal judge is following suit by throwing out several motions made by the EEOC after getting the verdict in the Swissport Case.

You can read all about the case EEOC vs Freeman by clicking here

In 2010 the EEOC filed claims for harassment, disparate treatment and retaliation on behalf of Swissport Fueling workers in several African countries.  A Swissport manager allegedly verbally abused African employees, shouting and cursing at them.  According to the claim, they were treated more harshly than non-African workers.  The EEOC was unable to conciliate the charges, and was reportedly difficult when the defendant asked for information to explain the alleged damages.

Twenty one of the charging parties were not identified before the suit was filed.  The court dismissed all of those claims saying they were not in good faith, and also accused the EEOC of conducting a fishing expedition. The court also rejected the Commission’s assertion that it did not have to comply with stated time limits.

By the time the case went to the jury there were 14 claimants.  The jury unanimously decided six of them had been discriminated against and awarded damages. They could not reach a unanimous verdict for the remaining eight, but they did find that the EEOC was not entitled to punitive damages for seven of them. 

The EEOC wanted the judge to put aside the jury’s verdict claiming it was inconsistent and the jury didn’t follow the court’s instructions. The Court denied that motion.

The Commission also renewed its Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law saying there was no legal basis on which a reasonable juror could find that Swissport was entitled to use a defense that says an employer can’t be held responsible for punitive damages if they made a good faith effort to comply with the anti-discrimination law.  The court disagreed and found that a reasonable juror could find the employer’s highest ranking official’s testimony to be credible.

The Court’s final decision in this case was to deny the EEOC’s motion for a new trial.  Essentially, the judge concluded that the jury did its job.

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Jennifer Gladstone

Posted By: Jennifer Gladstone

Jennifer Gladstone is a news anchor and journalist with more than 20 years of experience in front of the camera. She's worked in several markets, large and small, and has performed nearly every task needed in a newsroom. As EBI’s Screening News Editor, she keeps EBI’s customers and blog subscribers up to date on the latest screening news and legislative alerts affecting companies of all sizes.