EEOC Defers to ‘Lord High Executioner’

For those of us who care about workplace abuse, these are trying times.

A federal court judge in Hawaii has forced the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to publically apologize for announcing last June that a settlement was “filed” in a  case involving “vulnerable” Thai farm workers who were exploited by a labor contractor in Hawaii.

The announcement was technically correct but …

U.S. District Judge Leslie Kobayashi was miffed that the EEOC failed to state in a press release about a press conference that the settlements were not final until she signed the consent decree. She said she wouldn’t consider approving the $2.4 million in settlements for hundreds of Thai farm workers until the EEOC held a press conference clarifying that the agreements are still subject to court approval. She said that if the EEOC didn’t comply, she might reject the settlements and reset all claims for trial. Generally, it is pro forma for a judge to sign off on a settlement that is reached by the parties.

Does this remind anyone else of the Gilbert and Sullivan opus:

Behold the Lord High Executioner
A personage of noble rank and title
A dignified and potent officer
Whose functions are particularly vital
Defer, defer
To the Lord High Executioner
Defer, defer
To the noble Lord, to the noble Lord, to the Lord High Executioner!

As required, the EEOC held a press conference and publically apologized on Friday. An EEOC spokesperson explained that the EEOC issued an alert to the media last June that a press conference would be held to announce the settlements. She conceded the alert was “ambiguous” but noted the EEOC did state at the June press conference that the settlement was subject to court approval.

[Read more…]