U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Federal Judge Says That Kable News Company Did Not Meet the “High Threshold” for Non-Compliance With an EEOC Administrative Subpoena
CHICAGO – A federal district judge has ordered Kable News Company, a nationwide periodical circulator, to provide a comprehensive employee list in response to a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) administrative subpoena in an age discrimination case, the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s subpoena was issued in connection with its investigation stemming from a discrimination charge filed by a former Kable News employee contending that he had been fired because of his age. Judge Elaine Bucklo, relying on the EEOC’s prior subpoena enforcement action against the Sidley Austin law firm, rejected Kable’s argument that the EEOC could not obtain comprehensive employee data because the information sought in the subpoena was outside the scope of the individual discrimination charge. (EEOC v. Kable News Co., N.D. Ill.No. 10 C 5234, Minute Order, 11/4/10, E. Bucklo, D.J.).
In rejecting that argument and K able’s contention that it had already provided the EEOC with enough information, Judge Bucklo wrote that EEOC “enforcement proceedings are highly deferential,” and the “role of the court is ‘sharply limited’ in such proceedings.” Kable, she continued, “fails to appreciate that the . . . grant of investigative authority to the Commission is not cabined by any reference to charges.” Additionally, the court found:
[Kable’s] argument that it has already produced sufficient information for the EEOC to conclude its investigation of the current charge not only suffers from the same misapprehension, it assumes the correctness of [Kable’s] own theory of the case, which the EEOC is entitled to test through an expanded investigation.
Bucklo also rejected Kable’s argument that producing the information would be unduly burdensome, even though it would take six to 12 weeks to compile. “[Kable] does not meet the high threshold of showing that responding to the subpoena would ‘threaten the normal operation of respondent’s business,’” the judge wrote. “Moreover, [Kable] is clearly part of a substantial corporate group that presumably has the resources to enlist additional employees in the process,” the judge added.
John Hendrickson, regional attorney for EEOC in Chicago, commented, “This decision, like many before it, makes unequivocally clear that it is the EEOC that determines what may be required in its administrative investigations—not the employer. There is nothing really new in what Judge Bucklo has said. But some employers appear to think that it’s a good idea to ‘make a federal case’ out of the enforcement of EEOC subpoenas. The court’s forceful articulation of the rules to the contrary should provide more realistic guidance to decision makers.”
Kable, a company established in Mount Morris, Ill., is a self-proclaimed print media empire. According to its website, “Kable is one of the largest magazine and periodical circulators in the world. Eleven unique, yet interrelated services comprise our selection of circulation and marketing services for the publishing and direct response industries.”
In addition to Hendrickson, the EEOC is represented by Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason and Trial Attorney Aaron DeCamp. The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.