Seventh Circuit Affirms That Staffing Firm Must Answer EEOC Subpoena From 2009
CHICAGO - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that a federal appeals court ordered Aerotek, Inc., one of the nation's largest staffing firms, to comply with a subpoena EEOC issued more than three years ago in September 2009. The subpoena seeks information pertaining to charges filed with the agency alleging that Aerotek discriminated against employees in the workplace.
Noting that Aerotek has "continuously refused to comply" with several components of a subpoena EEOC issued in 2009, the Seventh Circuit ordered Aerotek to finally respond. The court found that Aerotek waived its right to object to the subpoena by failing to comply with EEOC regulations which impose a deadline for such objections. The court also reminded Aerotek that "the oversight role of federal courts in subpoena enforcement proceedings is 'sharply limited.'" The court also reiterated its stance that it was not the job of the appellate or the district court to assess the underlying merits of charges of discrimination - leaving that assessment to be made by EEOC. EEOC v. Aerotek, Inc., No. 11-1349 (7th Cir. Jan. 11, 2013). At the time of the appeal, the Chicago District Office was investigating charges of discrimination filed against Aerotek.
"Aerotek has spent significant time and resources fighting the September 2009 subpoena," noted Jack Rowe, director of the EEOC's Chicago District Office. "It ignored the EEOC's determination that the subpoena was valid, as well as the district court's determination that EEOC acted within its authority to investigate allegations of discrimination. This is a reminder that no matter how many times EEOC investigations are challenged, we will remain committed to our congressional mandate to investigate and ferret out discrimination."
EEOC's Chicago Regional Attorney John Hendrickson added, "The EEOC consistently prevails in court with its subpoena enforcement actions. Prudent and penny-wise employers should consider using subpoenas as an opportunity to show the government that they complied with EEO laws and produce the material they have, in lieu of expending resources to delay the investigation. Courts, as the Seventh Circuit did here, defer to the EEOC's determination as to what should be investigated."
Aerotek, with its corporate headquarters in Hanover, Md., states on its website that it has over 150 offices in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.
The EEOC investigation of Aerotek is being managed by EEOC District Director John Rowe in Chicago. The lead investigator is Eric Lamb. In addition to Regional Attorney Hendrickson, Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason, Appellate Attorney Paula Bruner, and Trial Attorney Laura Feldman are on the EEOC litigation team.
The EEOC's 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 is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.