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EEOC Can Use Teamsters-style Pattern-or-Practice Theory under Title VII § 706

November 12th, 2012 | Ross Runkel

Serrano sued in a class action claiming sex discrimination and the EEOC intervened. The trial court ruled for the employer on a number of issues; the 6th Circuit reversed. Serrano and EEOC v. Cintas Corp (6th Cir 11/09/2012).

The main issue was whether EEOC could pursue a pattern-or-practice style claim pursuant to § 706 of Title VII.

The employer argued that under § 706 the EEOC is limited to proving its allegations of discrimination pursuant to the McDonnell Douglas Corp v. Green, 411 US 792 (1973), burden-shifting framework, and cannot use the pattern-or-practice framework announced by the Supreme Court in Teamsters v. United States, 431 US 324 (1977). The court rejected that argument. Even though the Teamsters case arose under § 707, the theory of that case can be used under § 706.

The trial court erred in holding that the employer was entitled to judgment on the pleadings in light of the EEOC’s failure to plead its intent to rely on the Teamsters framework. Although the EEOC’s complaint “is not a model of good lawyering,” a plaintiff need not indicate at the pleading stage which circumstantial evidentiary framework it plans to use.

This article was originally published on November 10, 2012 at LawMemo. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Ross Runkel is a Professor of Law Emeritus at Willamette University College of Law. He has spent 35 years specializing in employment law, employment discrimination, labor law, and arbitration. 

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