The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that trucking company, CRST Van Expedited, was entitled to the $4.7 MM in legal fees awarded by a federal district court against the EEOC. The EEOC filed a sex harassment claim against CRST in 2007 on behalf of 250 female truck drivers, who claimed they were harassed during employment. The district court dismissed all but two of the claims, since the EEOC had not adequately investigated or attempted to resolve the claims before filing suit. One of those claims settled and the other was dismissed.
The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court's dismissal of the claims, but reversed the fee award, since there was no "final decision" making CRST a "prevailing party." But SCOTUS sent the case back to the court of appeals for review, noting that a "favorable ruling on the merits" was not required for a defendant to be a "prevailing party."
Previously, prevailing defendants were able to seek an award of attorneys' fees only where they could show that the case was "frivolous, unreasonable, or without foundation." But Title VII provides for an award of attorneys' fees to the "prevailing party." This decision may open the door to fee awards to defendants--even if they cannot show that the action was "frivolous."
CRST's President and CEO, Dave Rusch, was notably pleased with the ruling. He said the litigation spanned ten years and the legal fees actually exceeded $50 million.