United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. Wood United States District Judge.
case concerns the allegedly discriminatory use of criminal
background checks in hiring and firing determinations by
Defendant Dolgencorp, LLC (“Dollar General”).
After receiving charges of discrimination from two former
Dollar General employees, the United States Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) investigated and
determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that
Dollar General had engaged in employment discrimination on
the basis of race. Thereafter, the EEOC brought this lawsuit
against Dollar General under Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. §§
2000e et seq. Now before this Court is the
EEOC's motion for partial summary judgment on Dollar
General's seventh and eighth enumerated defenses: that
the EEOC's claims are barred as beyond the scope of the
charges of discrimination and the EEOC's investigation
(7th enumerated defense), and that the EEOC failed to satisfy
the statutory precondition for bringing suit when it failed
to conciliate with Dollar General (8th enumerated defense).
The EEOC contends that, on the undisputed facts, these two
defenses fail as a matter of law. The Court agrees and grants
the EEOC's motion.
October 29, 2004, Regina Fields-Herring filed with the EEOC a
charge of discrimination against her employer Dollar General.
(Pl.'s Stmt. of Undisp. Facts ¶ 1, Dkt. No. 197.)
Fields-Herring's charge stated that she had been
terminated for a felony conviction and she believed that she
had been discriminated against because she is Black, in
violation of Title VII. (Id.) On March 3, 2009, the
EEOC received a similar charge of discrimination from another
former Dollar General employee, Alesia Hightower, who alleged
that Dollar General had discriminated against her on the
basis of her race when it discharged her. (Id.
¶ 3.) Both charges of discrimination were served on
Dollar General. (Id. ¶¶ 2, 4.)
EEOC investigated the charges and issued two Letters of
Determination on September 6, 2011. (Id. ¶ 5.) The
Letters of Determination notified Dollar General that the
EEOC had found “reasonable cause to believe that,
through the application of its background check policy,
[Dollar General] discriminated against a class of employees .
. . because of their race, Black, in that they were not hired
and/or considered for employment, in violation of Title
VII” and “that, through the application of its
background check policy, [Dollar General] discriminated
against a class of employees . . . because of their race,
Black, in that they were discharged, in violation of Title
VII.” (EEOC Determination Letters, Dkt. No. 197-1, at
14, 16 of 19.) The Letters of Determination also invited
Dollar General to participate in a conciliation process.
(Pl.'s Stmt. of Undisp. Facts ¶ 6, Dkt. No. 197.)
September 6, 2011 and July 26, 2012, the EEOC and Dollar
General engaged in written and oral communications regarding
the alleged discrimination. (Id. ¶ 7.) Those
communications did not result in a conciliation agreement
acceptable to the EEOC. (Id.) On July 26, 2012, the
EEOC's District Director issued a notice to Dollar
General that the EEOC was concluding conciliation efforts, as
they had been unsuccessful in the EEOC's view.
(Id. ¶ 8.)
judgment is appropriate when the record, viewed in the light
most favorable to the non-moving party, reveals that there is
no genuine issue as to any material fact and the moving party
is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P.
56(a); Smith v. Hope School, 560 F.3d 694, 699 (7th
Cir. 2009). A “genuine issue” of material fact in
the context of a summary judgment motion is not simply a
“metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.”
Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio
Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 586 (1986). Rather, a genuine issue
of material fact exists when “the evidence is such that
a reasonable jury could return a verdict for the nonmoving
party.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477
U.S. 242, 248 (1986); Insolia v. Philip Morris,
Inc., 216 F.3d 596, 599 (7th Cir. 2000). In ruling on a
summary judgment motion, the court must consider the record
as a whole, in the light most favorable to the non-moving
party, and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the
non-moving party. Anderson, 477 U.S. at 255; Bay
v. Cassens Transp. Co., 212 F.3d 969, 972 (7th Cir.
2000). “A party may move for summary judgment,
identifying each claim or defense-or the part of each claim
or defense-on which summary judgment is sought.”
EEOC filed this motion seeking summary judgment on two of
Dollar General's defenses: (1) that the EEOC's claims
are barred because they are beyond the scope of the charges
of discrimination and the EEOC's investigation, and (2)
that the EEOC failed to satisfy the statutory precondition
for bringing suit when it failed to conciliate with Dollar
General. The Court considers each defense in turn.
Scope of the Charges of Discrimination and the EEOC's
General's seventh enumerated defense relies upon two
separate propositions: first, the EEOC's claims are
barred because they go beyond the claims delineated in the
charges of discrimination that generated the EEOC's
lawsuit; and, second, the EEOC's claims are barred
because the EEOC failed to investigate those claims
adequately prior to bringing suit.
the EEOC files suit, it “is not confined to claims
typified by those of the charging party.” EEOC v.
Caterpillar, Inc., 409 F.3d 831, 833 (7th Cir. 2005)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “Any violations
that the EEOC ascertains in the course of a reasonable
investigation of the charging party's complaint are
actionable. The charge incites the investigation, but if the
investigation turns up additional violations the Commission
can add them to its suit.” Id. (internal
quotation marks and citations omitted). Thus, Dollar
General's focus on the charges of discrimination is
misplaced here, as it is the EEOC that is bringing suit
against Dollar General and not private parties.
similar reasons, the Seventh Circuit has held that,
“[i]f courts may not limit a suit by the EEOC to claims
made in the administrative charge, they likewise have no
business limiting the suit to claims that the court finds to
be supported by the evidence obtained in the Commission's
investigation. The existence of probable cause to sue is
generally . . . not judicially reviewable.”
Id.; see also EEOC v. AutoZone, Inc., 141
F.Supp.3d 912, 915 (N.D. Ill. 2015), as amended (Nov. 4,
2015) (applying Caterpillar and explaining that
“under this Circuit's precedent, the Court may not
inquire into the sufficiency of the EEOC's pre-suit
investigation in order to ‘limit' the scope of the
litigation”). Thus, the Court denies Dollar
General's motion insofar as it seeks to dismiss the
EEOC's claims because they go beyond the charges of
discrimination or because they were not subject to an
adequate pre-suit investigation.
The EEOC's Compliance with the Requirement of ...