The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday ruled unanimously in favor of CRST Van Expedited in Cedar Rapids, which is trying to recover $4.7 million in legal fees from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The EEOC had filed a class-action lawsuit in 2007 seeking damages for 250 female truck drivers who were allegedly sexually harassed at work. The U.S. District Court dismissed all of the claims, saying the EEOC had not adequately investigated or attempted to conciliate its claims on their behalf before filing suit.
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade awarded CRST $4.7 million in legal fees as the prevailing party in the case.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the district court dismissal of the lawsuit, but ruled that CRST could not recover legal fees because the claims were dismissed without a ruling on the merits of the case.
The Supreme Court reversed the Eighth Circuit’s legal fees ruling and sent it back to the court for review. The Supreme Court ruled that a favorable ruling on the merits of a case is not a necessary requirement to find that a defendant is a prevailing party. It is unclear when the appellate court is to review the ruling.
CRST International President and CEO Dave Rusch hailed the Supreme Court’s ruling as a victory for the company.
“We are very pleased with this unanimous ruling,” Rusch said. “The justices ruled that we were the prevailing party and the appellate court needs to reconsider the legal fees.
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“This was a 10-year litigation that involved countless man-hours on the part of CRST. Our legal fees actually exceeded $50 million.”
Rusch is confident that CRST will ultimately receive restitution.
“It’s getting to the end of it,” he said. “From our standpoint, what the EEOC did in this case is a travesty.
“I hope that in the future when the EEOC comes after a company, it follows the rules to investigate and conciliate before filing a lawsuit.”
The case is CRST Van Expedited Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The ruling is available on the Internet at http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/15pdf/14-1375_09m1.pdf