Read about arbitration law in Chapter 4 and Case 4-3 in your textbook, and do some online research on the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Then discuss the following:
What is the EEOC’s role in regard to business? Does the court say that the EEOC trumps the arbitration contract between the employee and the employer? If so, why? What are the pros and cons of arbitration agreements? Do you think arbitration agreements between big companies and low wage earners who are uninformed about the law are truly fair? If you have any experiences at work with discrimination policies or EEOC trainings, share those experiences.
Read both cases and discuss legal issues for the court, focusing on in each. Summarize what factors the court looks at in determining where a case can be brought. What was the decision in each case, and do you think the decision was correct? Why or why not?
|ASE 4-3 p81||EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION v. WAFFLE HOUSE, INC.
UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT 534 U.S. 279 (2002)
All employees of Waffle House had to sign an agreement requiring employment disputes to be settled by binding arbitration. After Eric Baker suffered a seizure and was fired by Waffle House, he filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleging that his discharge violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) under Title VII. The EEOC subsequently filed an enforcement suit, to which Baker was not a party, alleging that Waffle House’s employment practices, including Baker’s discharge “because of his disability,” violated the ADA. The EEOC sought the following: an injunction to “eradicate the effects of [Waffle House’s] past and present unlawful employment practices”; specific relief designed to make Baker whole, including back pay, reinstatement, and compensatory damages; and punitive damages.
Waffle House sought to dismiss the EEOC’s suit and compel arbitration because of the binding arbitration clause signed by Baker. The District Court denied Waffle House’s motion to dismiss. The Fourth Circuit agreed with the District Court that the arbitration agreement between Baker and Waffle House did not foreclose the enforcement action because the EEOC was not a party to the contract, but had independent statutory authority to bring an action to enforce the statute. However, the appellate court held that the EEOC was limited to injunctive relief and precluded from seeking victim-specific relief because the FAA policy favoring enforcement of private arbitration agreements outweighs the EEOC’s right to proceed in federal court when it seeks primarily to vindicate private, rather than public, interests. The EEOC appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
JUSTICE STEVENS: In 1972, Congress amended Title VII to authorize the EEOC to bring its own enforcement actions; indeed, we have observed that the 1972 amendments created a system in which the EEOC was intended “to bear the primary burden of litigation.…” In 1991, Congress again amended Title VII to allow the recovery of compensatory and punitive damages by a “complaining party.” The term includes both private plaintiffs and the EEOC.… Thus, these statutes unambiguously authorize the EEOC to obtain the relief that it seeks in its complaint if it can prove its case against respondent.
The Court of Appeals based its decision on its evaluation of the “competing policies” implemented by the ADA and the FAA … It recognized that the EEOC never agreed to arbitrate its statutory claim … and that the EEOC has “independent statutory authority” to vindicate the public interest, but opined that permitting the EEOC to prosecute Baker’s claim in court “would significantly trample” the strong federal policy favoring arbitration, because Baker had agreed to submit his claim to arbitration. To effectuate this policy, the court distinguished between injunctive and victim-specific relief, and held that the EEOC is barred from obtaining the latter, because any public interest served when the EEOC pursues “make whole” relief is outweighed by the policy goals favoring arbitration.