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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Sears, Roebuck & Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
839 F.2d 302 (7th Cir. 1988)


Facts

The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (plaintiff) sued department store Sears, Roebuck & Co. (Sears) (defendant) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq., alleging systemic disparate treatment on the basis of gender. The EEOC based its case entirely on statistical evidence tending to show that Sears employed more men in higher-paying, commission-based sales jobs, while women were more likely to work in non-commission sales positions that paid lower wages on an hourly basis. To rebut this showing, Sears attempted to undermine the EEOC’s statistical findings by offering testimonial and expert evidence, survey and case-study findings, and personnel and external labor market data to show differences in female employees’ general interest in and qualifications for commission-based sales jobs. The district court found numerous problems with the EEOC’s statistical analyses and made several findings of fact that led it to rule in Sears’s favor. First, the district court found that there were major differences between commission and non-commission sales, including the types of goods sold, level of risk involved, types of skills required, and normal working hours. Second, the court found persuasive Sears’s evidence of women’s relative lack of interest in commission sales positions. Third, the court concluded that the EEOC failed to challenge the evidence suggesting that women were generally less qualified for commission-based jobs. The EEOC appealed.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Wood, J.)

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Concurrence/Dissent (Cudahy, J.)

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