Usually when an employer and employee settle an employment claim it ends there. This is not necessarily so when the claim is a charge of discrimination filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As a Florida staffing firm recently learned, the EEOC can pursue a claim even after the company settles with the employee who brought the charge. EEOC v. KB Staffing, LLC (M.D. Fla. 2014).
This case arose when staffing agency employee Rose-Marie Porter filed a charge of discrimination against KB Staffing for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by asking her to complete a pre-offer health questionnaire to be considered for employment. The ADA prohibits employers from making medical inquiries until after making an offer of employment. Porter was the only applicant or employee to bring a charge, but the charge alleged that other applicants may have been affected by this illegal practice.
KB Staffing settled with Porter for $12,500 and stopped using the questionnaire. Even so, the EEOC would not allow Porter to withdraw her charge. Instead, the EEOC continued to investigate the charge and has subpoenaed the health questionnaires for all of KB Staffing’s current employees and all applicants for three years prior to the charge.
KB Staffing tried to stop the EEOC from going forward with its investigation to no avail. The court said the EEOC’s continued investigation was within its authority “as the federal agency charged with the administration, interpretation, and enforcement of the ADA.”
This case is a reminder that the EEOC has authority to sue not only on behalf of charging parties who bring charges of discrimination, but also on behalf of others who may be affected by the same practices. While settlement generally ends a charge investigation, that it not always the case. The EEOC actively pursues systemic discrimination cases and for the past several years has made them a priority among cases it chooses to litigate.