What is the EEOC Litigation Project

This project collects and analyzes data on federal court litigation brought from fiscal years 1997 to 2006, inclusive, by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency charged with enforcing the laws forbidding discrimination by private employers on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability. The data capture various aspects of the agency's litigation activities, including detailed information regarding the participants, motions, events, and outcomes.

Why Study EEOC Litigation

The EEOC is an important object of study because of its critical role in enforcing the nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and litigation is one of its crucial enforcement tools. These data provide comprehensive documentation of the EEOC's litigation activity and the relief (both monetary and injunctive) obtained over a ten-year period of time. Equally important, the EEOC's court activity is an ideal subject for studying litigation dynamics and the interaction between litigant and judicial decision-making. Our dataset includes all types of court decisions (published and unpublished, final and non-final, written and summary) and records all kinds of outcomes (default, settlement, pretrial adjudication, judgment after trial), thereby avoiding problems of selection bias that have limited other studies of settlement dynamics and judicial decision-making. By providing detailed information about the EEOC’s enforcement litigation to legal scholars, social scientists and policy-makers, this project will advance understanding of these two important subjects of study – employment discrimination law and practice, and the litigation process more generally.

How the Data Were Collected

We began with a complete list of all federal court cases brought by the EEOC on behalf of individual complainants from fiscal years 1997 to 2006, inclusive. From this list, we selected a stratified random sample of cases to be included in the study. The sample includes all cases classified by the EEOC as “benefiting” more than one employee, all cases concluded by a court order, and all cases listing a trial date, a total of 1406 cases. In addition, we pulled as large a random sample from the remaining cases as our resources allowed, resulting in a total of 2316 cases.

Using the district court docket numbers provided by the EEOC, we searched the federal court system’s web-based docketing system known as PACER ("Public Access to Court Electronic Records") for additional data on each case. In particular, we examined the dockets and the available case documents to gather information on the basis for suit, the allegations in the complaint, the presiding judge or judges, the attorneys, the amount of monetary relief and the types of non-monetary relief sought and obtained by the EEOC, with an emphasis on systematically collecting and analyzing the terms of any injunctive relief. We also collected from the PACER dockets detailed data on the litigation events (e.g., motions, discovery disputes, court orders) that occurred in each case prior to resolution as well as coding for the form of resolution in the case (e.g., default, withdrawal, pretrial and trial adjudications). The judges’ biographical information was collected through the use of a variety of online databases and related websites.

Where are the Data

The collected data are organized into several "bricks." The Master Brick contains an observation for each case in our sample, recording basic information such as the judges assigned to the case, the types of issues and claims it raised, the form of resolution, and whether there was an appeal. The other, secondary bricks provide additional details about the cases and can be linked to the observations in the Master Brick using a unique Case Code assigned to each case in our sample.

The EEOC Administrative Data Brick and the accompanying codebook make available the data received from the EEOC on the merits cases it filed during the study period.

Download links to these data "bricks" can be found in the right-hand column of this page.

Visit The Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse to see the special collection of court documents that were coded in this project.