Equal Employment Opportunity Commission oversteps authority
You may have read in the newspaper recently that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has overstepped its legislative authority by pursuing frivolous claims. While the idea of a government agency abusing its authority is disconcerting it does seem to happen frequently because of the inability of the citizenry to fight back. However, recently a few companies have challenged the EEOCs threats to either settle a case brought against them or to endure a lengthy and expensive trial. These companies not only stood up to the EEOC, they won their trials and were awarded reimbursement of their legal costs. While the EECO did pay the fees as ordered by the courts they refused to recant in their material on their web site the claims they had brought against these business. What a blatant abuse of government authority!
I recognize that agencies like the EEOC were put in place by the legislature to prevent abuses in business practices. I have no issue with the perceived goals of agencies such as the EEOC but do have concerns when such agencies begin to write their own rules and bully businesses. Perhaps you think I’m overreacting however with 30 some years of business management under my belt I have personally experienced the bully pulpit of governmental agencies.
One of the services my firm offers is the property management of apartment communities. We quite often have interaction with the Us Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In most cases HUD regulations are reasonable and easy to follow, however, from time to time I have come in contact with an unreasonable representative of the agency. In one case I was told I was discriminating against large families when I refused to rent a two bedroom apartment to a family of six and was threatened with a lawsuit if I didn’t withdraw my policy. I stood my ground and did prevail but I learned that it is costly to fight the government. Again I believe it was an abuse of authority.
On another occasion I had a deaf resident who wanted to keep a tattered paper grocery bag nailed to their door to inform people they should pound on the door rather than ring the doorbell. I had offered to make the resident a
professional sign and place it next to the doorbell but this was not acceptable to the resident and they filed a complaint with HUD. I was contacted by a HUD field agent who kindly “advised me” to allow the person to keep their bag, I told the agent that what they were asking was unreasonable and that I was abiding to the law. The agent disagreed and wrote me a citation; there was not hearing or third party to determine if I was right or wrong. The agent decided I was wrong so I was wrong. I still believe I’d offered a reasonable accommodation and that the agent had abused their authority.
On yet another occasion I had an agent from the US Department of Labor call me and tell me they were representing a previous employee of mine who they felt I’d discriminated against because they were older. Yes the ex-employee was over forty but they were fired for drinking while on the job. This did matter to the agent who told me I had a choice of a lengthy expensive trial or a small cash settlement to the ex-employee. I called my attorney and we spoke about the cost of defending me and it was decided it would be cheaper to pay a settlement. In my opinion it was blackmail and an abuse of authority. It also seemed to mirror what the EEOC is now doing.
I’m now undergoing an audit by the US Department of Labor, Wage and Hour Division. My firm has fewer than 15 employees and isn’t required to follow federal mandates under the law but it didn’t stop the field agent from performing a complete investigation. I’m seeing shades of recent EEOCs actions and am questioning if this won’t also be a case of overstepping authority.
Perhaps the call to close down these government agencies has some merit. Even if this isn’t practical I believe it could be a wakeup call for agencies that have gone rouge.