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Court to weigh gov’t duty to settle bias claims

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court said Monday it will consider a dispute over the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s duty to try and settle charges of job discrimination before filing lawsuits against employers.

The issue has riled business groups as the Obama administration has aggressively stepped up enforcement of the nation’s anti-discrimination laws.

The justices agreed to hear an appeal from an Illinois mining company that was sued by the EEOC for failing to hire qualified female job applicants. The government alleges that Mach Mining has never hired any female miners since it began operations in 2006 despite getting applications from many qualified women.

The company says the lawsuit should be thrown out because the EEOC didn’t try hard enough to negotiate a settlement before going to court. The Obama administration claims it is up to the EEOC — not the courts — to decide whether terms of a settlement are acceptable.

A federal judge agreed to review whether the EEOC’s attempt to settle the case was “sincere and reasonable,” but the government objected. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, saying a company could not raise ineffective settlement effort as a defense.