The United States Supreme Court granted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) petition to review a decision by the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit which held that while the Commission could go to court for an injunction to stop a discriminatory employment practice, it could not seek victim-specific relief for workers who were bound by arbitration agreements. Mr. Baker completed an application for employment at Waffle House in June 1994 which contained a clause which provided that the parties agree that any dispute or claim concerning Applicant’s employment with Waffle House, Inc. will be settled by binding arbitration. Baker began work at a Waffle House in August 1994 but was discharged shortly thereafter, following a seizure he suffered at work. The EEOC found that his discharge violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, and filed suit in federal court seeking relief solely on Baker’s behalf. The District Court denied Waffle House’s motion to compel arbitration of Baker’s claim. The Fourth Circuit reversed and held that the arbitration agreement was valid and binding, further holding that the EEOC could not be required to arbitrate its claims against Waffle House by virtue of Baker’s agreement to arbitrate. The Supreme Court granted the EEOC’s certiorari petition.
NELF’s amicus brief, filed on behalf of Connecticut Business and Industry Association, argued that if an arbitration agreement can be circumvented by the EEOC’s decision to pursue an employee’s discrimination case in court, then businesses cannot rely on such agreements to control litigation expenses. NELF’s brief urged the Court to hold that an individual, who has freely agreed to arbitrate all employment claims, should not be allowed to make an end run around the arbitration agreement by having the EEOC pursue back pay or liquidated damages in court on his or her behalf. A divided Supreme Court ruled that an employee’s agreement to arbitrate employment-related disputes with an employer does not bar the EEOC, as a plaintiff in an enforcement action against the employer, from obtaining victim-specific remedies for discrimination.