Gavel-on-Cash.jpgA long-running sex discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) came to an end on November 25, 2015, when a Michigan federal district court approved a consent decree. Under that decree, Cintas Corporation agreed to pay $1.5 million in addition to a numerous other requirements for years to come. A copy of the full consent decree is available here EEOC v. Cintas Corp., 11/25/2015 Consent Decree.

Women who applied to work at a Cintas rental facility in the state of Michigan but were not hired for the position of service sales representative from January 1, 1999, through March 31, 2005, are eligible for monetary relief under this Decree.

The decree arose out of the EEOC’s claim that since at least June 1999 and through March 31, 2005, Cintas unlawfully discriminated against females in recruiting and hiring route sales drivers and service sales representatives throughout the state of Michigan.

In addition to Cintas’ agreement to pay the monetary relief to rejected female job applicants, the consent decree further included Cintas’ agreement to:

  • Enhanced record retention requirements for all applications for the applicable position submitted to a specified Cintas division in Michigan, and it agreed to maintain those records in a specified digital format that would be produced upon request during the consent decree.
  • Cintas’ agreement to hire an outside specialist to validate its applicant screening and hiring criteria and will provide training to its hiring managers in Michigan on the requirements of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
  • Cintas will conduct outreach recruitment to attract qualified women for applicable openings.
  • Pay up to $50,000 for the EEOC to retain the services of a third-party claims administrator to assist in obtaining information from class members and providing that information to Cintas.
  • Submit a detailed report to the EEOC concerning its compliance with the consent decree within 180 days after entry of that decree. After that, Cintas must provide a laundry list of required information in December 2016 and 2017.

The consent decree is scheduled to last the later of 28 months following the date of entry of the decree or March 15, 2018.

Take Aways

The EEOC has broad statutory authority to pursue this sort of enforcement initiative. That authority includes Section 707 of Title VII, which gives the EEOC the ability to file “pattern or practice” lawsuits against employers like Cintas.

For employers, it is important to understand that the EEOC has repeatedly pursued systemic investigations like that involved above in which the underlying allegations contain “pattern or practice” claims. Further, systemic investigations may also result where the EEOC expands its investigation to include “pattern or practice” claims based on allegations raised in a single charge. But regardless of how the systemic investigation begins, it often ends expensively for the employer as the $1.5 million settlement illustrates. Further, that settlement does not reflect the attorney fees and lost opportunity costs for this decade plus long litigation.

For more information about complying with federal or Michigan ant-discrimination laws, and for implementing HR best practices to insulate or minimize the chance your company will be the focus of an EEOC investigation, contact Michigan employment attorney Jason Shinn.