U.S. Supreme Court Rules that Victorious Defendants may Receive Attorney’s Fees Even in Cases Not Resolved on the Merits
Whether a dismissal of a Title VII case, based on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s total failure to satisfy its pre-suit investigation, reasonable cause, and conciliation obligations, can form the basis of an attorney’s fee award to the defendant under 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(k)?
In its brief, the U.S. Chamber urged the Supreme Court to hold that CRST is entitled to attorney’s fees from EEOC under Title VII for the government’s undisputedly illegal conduct. Specifically, EEOC filed a class action-like lawsuit against CRST and sought relief for 67 individuals it first identified after it filed suit, without complying with Title VII’s multi-step pre-suit process. The coalition brief argues that CRST is entitled to attorney’s fees under the enforcement provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 2000e–5(k). The brief further argues that the EEOC should not be allowed to sidestep its failure to follow its statutory obligations under Title VII.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, for purposes of receiving attorney’s fees under Title VII, a defendant may be considered a prevailing party in a suit even if the case does not reach the merits.