Court Ruling Affirms EEOC’s Broad Reach
This article first appeared in Staffing Industry Analysts’ online publication, “The Staffing Stream.” This and other articles are available at the link below.
It seems like every week there is some decision, guidance or policy change that alters companies’ ability to transact business. Whether it’s the courts, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the National Labor Relations Board, the employment law landscape is constantly changing.
In July, Randstad suffered a blow as did all of staffing companies that have multiple offices and place a significant number of temporary employees. These staffing firms are the unfortunate recipients of an EEOC Charge.
Randstad’s woes started with a Charge and an amended Charge — and then a broad EEOC request to see documents or a data compilation setting forth all position assignments made by Randstad over a 5-year period, among other documents. The EEOC subsequently agreed to limit the information request to 13 branch offices. Randstad in response only provided information regarding the four positions for which the employee at the center of the EEOC’s investigation had been assigned and otherwise refused to comply with the requests.
A U.S. District Court had ruled against the EEOC. On appeal, though, the Federal Court in the 4th Circuit (which covers Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) acknowledged the broad subpoena power of the EEOC and was not sympathetic to Randstad’s argument that the request was burdensome alone. The court made clear that cost of production alone would not be enough.
This decision clearly evidences the breadth and reach of an EEOC subpoena. Companies need to be prepared to deal with this level of production if the other Circuits follow suit — and I would guess they will. The argument to support a ‘burdensome’ claim will have to be well supported and clear and may require a showing of being onerous to allow a company to avoid any attempt by the EEOC to demand extensive discovery production.