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Authority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to Conduct Defensive Litigation


In general, the Attorney General has plenary authority over the supervision and conduct of litigation to which the United States is a party. Courts have narrowly construed statutory grants of litigation authority to agencies to permit such power only when the authorizing statutes are sufficiently clear and specific to ensure that Congress intended an exception to the general rule.

The litigation authority of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is limited to that which is specifically provided by statute, namely, enforcement actions brought against private sector employers. 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e-4(b), 2000e-5, 2000e-6. Accordingly, the Commission may not independently defend suits brought against it in connection with its federal sector administrative and enforcement and adjudicative functions, or actions brought against it by its own employees challenging Commission personnel decisions. Such suits are to be handled by attorneys under the supervision of the Attorney General.

Updated July 9, 2014