February 09, 2010

On February 9, 2010 the Chief Judge of the Northern District of Iowa entered an order granting Jenner & Block client CRST Van Expedited Inc. a total attorneys’ fee award of $4,560,285.11 as the prevailing party against the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, thus bringing to a close all district court proceedings in an alleged Title VII sexual harassment case originally filed by the EEOC against CRST in 2007. 

In a series of previous rulings, Chief Judge Linda R. Reade had granted summary judgment dismissing all EEOC claims against CRST.  In an April 30, 2009 ruling granting the Firm’s motion for summary judgment on EEOC’s claim that CRST management tolerated a “pattern or practice” of sexual harassment of female drivers, the Court ruled that EEOC “presented insufficient evidence to show that CRST has engaged in a pattern or practice of tolerating sexual harassment of its female drivers” and that a “reasonable jury could not find that it is CRST’s ‘standard operating procedure’ to tolerate sexual harassment.” 

“The EEOC’s criticisms of CRST’s anti-sexual harassment policy are not well-taken,” the Court wrote and noted that the EEOC did not cite “a single case, statute or other legal authority” in its argument against the quality of CRST’s policies. “To show a pattern or practice of unlawful employment practices, the EEOC must do more than quibble with alleged deficiencies in CRST’s anti-sexual harassment policy and practices. It must cite legal authority,” the Court said.

In her February 9, 2010 order and opinion, Chief Judge Reade held that an award of substantial fees to CRST as the prevailing party was warranted because EEOC, among other things, acted unreasonably by suing CRST without first conducting the proper investigation required by law.  “The EEOC’s failure to investigate and attempt to conciliate the individual [female driver] claims constituted an unreasonable failure to satisfy Title VII’s prerequisites to suit,” the Court wrote. 

In support of a large fee award, the Court highlighted that “CRST’s counsel successfully obtained dismissal of the entire case.  The case involved hundreds of allegedly aggrieved individuals and potentially massive liability to CRST.  Jenner’s attorneys have significant experience and outstanding reputations in large, high stakes litigation.”

Jenner & Block’s team was led by Partners John H. Mathias, Jr., Robert T. Markowski, Carla J. Rozycki, Sally K. Sears Coder, James T. Malysiak, Sarah Hardgrove-Koleno; Of Counsel Richard P. Campbell and Emma J. Sullivan; Associates Spiridoula Mavrothalasitis, J. Andrew Hirth, Anne C. Fitzpatrick, Benjamin J. Wimmer, Sapna G. Lalmalani, Anne M. (Gardner) Alexander, Justin A. Maleson, Ashley M. Schumacher, and Michele L. Slachetka; and Paralegal Cheryl J. Kras.

Jenner & Block received significant and very able support as local counsel from Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman PLC in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, particularly from employment law litigation Partners Kevin Visser and Thomas Wolle.