August 01, 2013

On August 1, 2013, Judge Linda R. Reade of the Northern District of Iowa entered an opinion and order in favor of Jenner & Block client CRST Van Expedited, resulting in one of the largest, if not the largest, fee awards ever against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  CRST Van Expedited, Inc. was awarded $4,189,296.10 in attorneys’ fees and $505,146.04 in out-of-pocket and taxable costs as the prevailing party on its fee petition against the EEOC.  This is a huge victory for the client and the firm team, led by senior litigation partner John H. Mathias, Jr., and is the culmination of six years of successful, hard-fought Title VII litigation with the EEOC.

Last year, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the district court’s previous dismissal of 268 of 270 Title VII individual sexual harassment claims brought by the EEOC.  The appellate court held that the EEOC had failed to satisfy the statutory obligations Congress imposed on it before it could file suit against an employer.

The EEOC filed suit in 2007 under Title VII, alleging that CRST intentionally tolerated a pattern and practice of sexual harassment of its female drivers, and sought compensatory and punitive damages for 270 female drivers.  The EEOC’s suit challenged the company’s team-driving business model and attacked its reputation as a company that provided women with training and job opportunities in a traditionally male-dominated industry.  Having required long-haul trucking companies not to follow a same-sex team-driving or training policy, the EEOC sought many millions of dollars in damages and control over CRST’s policy and procedures for preventing and remedying sexual harassment of female drivers by their male training driver or co-driver.

In the district court, Jenner & Block won summary judgment on the EEOC’s pattern and practice claim, defeating the EEOC’s effort to obtain broad injunctive relief and class-wide punitive damages.  CRST also won dismissal on summary judgment or on other grounds of all but 67 of the 270 individual claims.  The district court then dismissed the remaining 67 claims on the grounds that the EEOC had failed to satisfy Title VII’s pre-suit obligations to investigate each claim, make a determination whether each claim was supported by reasonable cause, and offer in good faith to conciliate each claim.

The EEOC chose not to appeal the pattern or practice ruling, but did seek reversal as to 107 individual claims, including the dismissal based on the agency’s failure to fulfill its pre-suit obligations.  In its often cited February 22, 2012 ruling, the Eighth Circuit affirmed as to all but two individual claims.  The ruling enforces Congress’ goal of not embroiling employers in costly and disruptive litigation unless the EEOC has determined that its claims are supported by good cause and cannot be settled.

On remand, the EEOC dismissed one claim and accepted substantially less than CRST’s remaining cost of defense in settlement of the sole remaining claim.

The firm is prominently mentioned in coverage by the Litigation Daily and ABA Journal. Bloomberg Businessweek also reported on the matter.

In addition to John H. Mathias Jr., the Jenner & Block team included Partners James T. Malysiak, Sally Sears Coder and Sarah Hardgrove-Koleno; Of Counsels Richard P. Campbell and Emma J. Sullivan; Associates Ashley M. Schumacher and Christine M. Bowman; and paralegal Cheryl J. Kras.