Bloomberg escapes the clutches of the EEOC?

One I want to write a bit more about after the sun rises, is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Bloomberg, LP, which was recently decided by Chief Judge Loretta Preska in New York’s U.S. District Court for the Southern District. The active link is to a blog post by the Labor and Employment Section of the New York Bar Association.

What stands out to me about the case is how Bloomberg simply didn’t cooperate with the EEOC. Although the Chief Judge handed the EEO a setback by not allowing the EEO to move forward on a monetary claim (of $41 million or so), she also pointed out that Bloomberg’s approach to the administrative charge was the equivalent of a demurrer.

This is big corporations writing their own rules, as I was saying last year. It’s very dangerous to our democracy.

When you get a notice from EEOC, you are not supposed to blow it off, and you are not supposed to raise a bunch of far-fetched jurisdictional arguments.

[More later today.]

As I look at this case, I see two things going on. On the one hand, the local EEO–which is the one in New York that I dealt with–did seem to be shaking down Bloomberg for a big settlement. I know that in some circles the ability of Equal Employment to settle cases for money, and maybe big money, is seen as a yardstick. I just wonder what happens when someone else, like a federal court judge, gets the yardstick instead and says “uhn uhh”.

On the other hand, and as regular readers know, I waited about two years while EEO gave IBM time to make excuses about even answering an administrative charge. It’s like the big company writes its own law, and the federal government agents can either go along with it or go blow. It’s a legacy of the W. Bush administration—although I think the practice goes back to Ronald Reagan, and it’s one that makes it an embarrassment to be a registered Republican.

The EEO has a duty. The idea that big companies can just jerk the EEO when they feel like it (which will be any time they’re faced with an administrative charge) is unsettling. Like we’re living in a land of lords and serfs.

For me, I was surprised I got the attention I got. Yes, I know I got burned by the Japanese in IBM, and I know it was discriminatory. But try to convince somebody else of that; especially, a stranger back home 9,000 miles away. The EEO gets about 100,000 charges a year now, throughout the whole of America. That’s a lot. How much time can they devote to 75% of them, if you guess that 1 in 4 might not have good facts at the start?

Also, in fairness to the small company employers, what do you think happens when the Big Fish can blow off the EEO? The small firm: a trucking company, a retail outlet, a mid-size professional firm, a regional restaurant chain–none of these likely have the wherewithall to devote legal resources to playing cat and mouse with EEOC. They end up making the settlements and getting the fines, in situations where they may very well be wrong. But maybe not. They don’t get to play the big company game.

I was impressed with the judge pointing out that Bloomberg’s stall tactics didn’t help matters. And as the EEO is still being permitted to conciliate, it will be good to see that a company associated with the Mayor of New York City, that relies on so much that our great country offers so that Michael Bloomberg can have his business, also respects our country’s designated systems for resolving employment discrimination issues.