The Work Of The Employment Litigation Section

The Employment Litigation Section enforces against state and local government employers the provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended "Title VII", and other federal laws prohibiting employment practices that discriminate on grounds of race, sex, religion, and national origin. The Section also enforces against state and local government employers and private employers the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), which prohibits employers from discriminating or retaliating against an employee or applicant for employment because of such person's past, current or future military obligation.  


The Section initiates Title VII litigation in two ways. Under Title VII, the Attorney General has authority to bring suit against a state or local government employer where there is reason to believe that a "pattern or practice" of discrimination exists. Generally, these are factually and legally complex cases that seek to alter an employment practice, such as recruitment, hiring, assignment and promotions, which has the purpose or effect of denying employment or promotional opportunities to a class of individuals. Under its "pattern or practice" authority, the Section obtains relief in the form of offers of employment, back pay and other equitable relief for individuals who have been the victims of the unlawful employment practices. These cases very frequently are resolved by consent decree prior to trial.  


The Section's second Title VII enforcement mechanism is the filing of suit against a state or local government employer based upon an individual charge of discrimination referred to the Section by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), following a determination by the EEOC that the charge has merit and efforts to obtain voluntary compliance are unsuccessful. A limited number of these suits are initiated each year. While small in scope when compared to pattern or practice suits, these are cases that might not be pursued without the Section's participation and they often address types of discrimination that may not be remediable through pattern or practice suits. Suits based on individual charges have involved, for example, allegations of harassment, retaliation, involuntary reassignment, failure to promote, discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, unlawful discharge and religious discrimination.


At the end of FY 2004, the Attorney General transferred USERRA enforcement authority to the Civil Rights Division, and the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in turn assigned USERRA enforcement to the Employment Litigation Section. USERRA complaints are initially filed with the U.S. Department of Labor. The Department of Labor investigates such complaints, makes determinations as to whether they have merit and attempts to voluntarily resolve those complaints it determines have merit. If the Department of Labor does not resolve a complaint, it will refer the complaint to the Department of Justice upon the request of the person who filed the complaint.

Upon receipt of an unresolved USERRA complaint from the Department of Labor, the Section reviews the Department of Labor's investigative file accompanying the complaint and makes a determination as to whether to extend representation to the complainant. Under USERRA, the Department of Justice has authority to appear on behalf of a claimant in a suit filed in federal district court if the Department is satisfied that the claimant is entitled to the rights or benefits being sought. Since the transfer of USERRA enforcement authority, the Section has been actively reviewing complaints referred to it by the Department of Labor and has initiated several lawsuits on behalf of service members.


In addition, the Section has authority to prosecute enforcement actions upon referral by the Department of Labor of complaints arising under Executive Order 11246 , which prohibits discrimination in employment by federal contractors. The Section also represents the Departments of Labor and Transportation and other federal agencies in suits challenging the application or enforcement of federal laws that prohibit discrimination or require affirmative action by government contractors or recipients of federal financial assistance.

The litigation handled by the Section is national in scope. Attorneys assigned to the Section concern themselves with all aspects of complex civil litigation, including investigations, suit recommendations, discovery, motion practice, settlement negotiations, trials, and the monitoring and enforcement of court orders for remedial and injunctive relief. Frequently, the Section's litigation involves the testimony of expert witnesses, such as industrial psychologists, exercise physiologists, economists and statisticians. In FY 2007, the Section filed or authorized 18 lawsuits under Title VII, including a major “pattern or practice” suit.
  • In United States v. City of New York, we allege that the City of New York (“City”) has engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination against African-American and Hispanic applicants for the position of entry-level firefighter in the fire department of the City in violation of Title VII, by using a written examination as pass/fail screening device and by its rank-order processing of applicants from its firefighter eligibility lists based on a combination of applicants’ scores on the written examination and a physical ability test.
The Section also obtained a number of consent decrees or settlement agreements during FY 2007. Examples of these decrees and agreements are as follows:
  • The Section obtained a consent decree in United States v. City of Chesapeake that resolved our suit against the City of Chesapeake (“City”) in which we alleged that the City, in its police department, engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination on the basis of race and national origin, in violation of Section 707 of Title VII by using the National Police Officer Selection Test (“POST”) mathematics test to screen applicants for the entry-level police officer position, since the use of that test resulted in disparate impact against African-American and Hispanic applicants and was not job-related for the position and consistent with business necessity.

    The decree calls for the City to make eight (8) priority hires of African-Americans and Hispanics who failed the mathematics component, but passed the reading and grammar components, of the POST between March 2001 and December 2005, and who now pass the City’s current requirements for the entry-level police officer position. The decree also requires the City to provide $65,000.00 in monetary relief and calls for the use of the POST mathematics examination in a fully compensatory manner with an overall cutoff score not to exceed 66%.

  • The Section obtained a consent decree in United States, et al. v. Municipio de Vega Alta, that resolved our suit in which we alleged that Municipio de Vega Alta (“Municipality”), in its police department, engaged in gender discrimination against three female officers, and in retaliation against one male officer, in violation of Title VII. Under the terms of the consent decree, the Municipality will offer monetary awards totalling $225,000, inclusive of attorneys’ fees, to the four officers/intervenor plaintiffs. The Municipality will also provide training on the law of equal employment opportunity, including discrimination based on gender and retaliation, to all supervisors in the Municipality’s police department.

  • The Section obtained a consent decree in United States v. Palm Beach County, Florida, that resolved our suit against Palm Beach County (“County”) in which we alleged that the County discriminated against a former part-time park ranger on the basis of his religion. The decree requires the County to offer to reemploy the individual as a part-time park ranger with remedial seniority and to provide him with an accommodation for his religious observance, practice and/or belief of attending Church and refraining from work on Sundays, and to offer to pay him a monetary award of $31,540.

  • The Section obtained a consent decree in United States v. City of Ville Platte, Louisiana, that resolved our suit against the City of Ville Platte (“City”) in which we alleged that the City discriminated against a female employee on the basis of her sex in violation of Title VII by refusing to employ her as a full-time police dispatcher for the duration of her pregnancy. Under the terms of the decree, the City is required to offer a monetary award of $4,511 and remedial seniority as a full-time dispatcher to the female employee.
Updated August 6, 2015

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