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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission asked a federal appeals court Monday to reconsider a ruling that could hurt its ability to pursue class-action discrimination lawsuits on behalf of workers in the Midwest.

The agency filed a petition asking the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider a February ruling that dismissed a lawsuit filed on behalf of more than 100 women who claimed they were sexually harassed by male drivers at an Iowa trucking company.

The 2-1 ruling set a new standard requiring EEOC to identify every affected worker, investigate their claims and seek informal settlements before suing a company. The ruling affects lawsuits filed anywhere in the federal circuit that stretches from Arkansas to the Dakotas and sets a higher bar than the agency faces elsewhere.

EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez said the standard would make it more expensive and time-consuming to bring large-scale harassment and discrimination cases. The agency has not yet issued guidance to investigators about the new standard, hoping the ruling will be overturned, he said.

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