Once an employer agrees to a Consent Decree with the EEOC (and a court enters the decree), that EEOC dispute is over, right? Oh no. The Consent Decree gives the EEOC a new enforcement tool; with any new act of discrimination that also violates the decree, the EEOC may go directly to court and seek a contempt finding. In EEOC v. Supervalu, Inc., No. 09 CV 5637 (N.D. IL), the employer was subject to a Consent Decree requiring compliance with the ADA, including providing “reasonable accommodation(s) to persons desiring to return to work from a disability leave.” In practice, however, the employer assumed part-time employees wanted to work close to home and did not consider transfers to other work locations. The employer also did not consider transferring employees to the home office and did not consider cheap assistive devices as accommodations. The EEOC brought contempt proceedings. In the end, affected employees received back pay, and the EEOC received attorney fees and costs. A recent report says the attorney fees were $400,000.
Be on guard. A Consent Decree is consent to continuing court action.