EEOC Ordered to Pay Attorneys' Fees in Dismissed Harassment Suit

February 17, 2010 ( – The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been ordered to pay $4.56 million in attorney fees and expenses to a Cedar Rapids, Iowa, company for which charges of sexual harassment were dismissed.

The National Law Journal reports that in a series of rulings last year, Chief Judge Linda Reade of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa dismissed all of the agency’s claims against trucking business CRST Van Expedited.

 She found the EEOC had not proven a “pattern or practice of tolerating sexual harassment in its workplace,” but instead had presented “anecdotal evidence to show that some members of CRST’s management occasionally violated CRST’s anti-sexual harassment policy by failing to respond appropriately to sexual harassment in the workplace.”

Reade also dismissed the claims of 67 women after finding the agency had “wholly abandoned its statutory duties” towards them by not conducting any investigation of their allegations, according to the National Law Journal.

CRST Van Expedited was represented by a team of attorneys from Jenner & Block in Chicago and Simmons Perrine Moyer Bergman in Cedar Rapids. In the fee application, Jenner said its attorneys and staff billed a total of 18,005.75 hours on the case and sought $7,121,569.25 at rates ranging from $151 to $825 per hour for this work. Simmons attorneys and support staff billed a total of 2,507.66 hours at rates ranging from $95 to $295 per hour and sought a total of $502,977.02 for their work.

Last week, Reade awarded the amount requested by Simmons for its work, but reduced Jenner’s request to $3,501,394.63 after comparing the firm’s rates to market rates prevailing in the local community, the news report said. She also awarded reasonable out-of-pocket expenses totaling $463,071.25. In an earlier order, the court had granted CRST $92,842.21 in costs.

Reade said the large award was warranted because the company’s counsel successfully obtained a dismissal of the entire case, the case involved hundreds of allegedly aggrieved individuals, and there was potentially massive liability to CRST.

The EEOC has appealed the dismissal of the lawsuit with the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.