DENVER – A federal judge has ordered Patterson UTI Drilling, a national company with oil and natural gas extraction rigs in 16 states and Canada, to disclose to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the structure and contents of any of the company’s electronic databases pertaining to its current and former employees, the EEOC announced today. In addition, the judge ordered that Patterson disclose information about every one of the company’s employees and any records pertaining to complaints of employment discrimination for a two-year period.
The court order stems from an individual charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC alleging racial harassment and retaliation at one of Patterson’s rigs. In the process of investigating the charge, the EEOC requested a description of Patterson’s computer database systems in order to tailor future requests for information. In addition, the EEOC sought information concerning the identity of all of Patterson’s employees, including their name, race, position and last known contact information. When Patterson refused to turn over the information, the EEOC issued a subpoena for it. When Patterson refused to abide by the subpoena, the EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado to enforce the subpoena.
In ruling on the EEOC’s motion to enforce the subpoena, U.S. District Judge Philip A. Brimmer indicated that the Commission’s statutory authority to investigate charges of discrimination entitle it to obtain information regarding employees throughout the country, even when investigating an individual charge of discrimination. Contrary to Patterson’s arguments, Judge Brimmer said that such information is relevant to an EEOC investigation and that Patterson failed to show that it would be unduly burdened by complying with the EEOC’s request.
“Judge Brimmer’s ruling recognizes that the right to investigate a charge of discrimination is not subordinate to the convenience of employers,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill of the Phoenix District, which includes Colorado. “The EEOC takes its authority to issue subpoenas seriously and we will seek to enforce them in court when necessary. Employers will not be permitted to refuse to comply with EEOC investigators’ lawful and relevant requests for information.”
EEOC Phoenix Acting District Director Rayford Irvin added, “Congress endowed the EEOC with broad investigatory powers. Preventing the agency from obtaining relevant information in our investigations, absent a showing of undue hardship, would be a restriction on our mandate to root out and eliminate employment discrimination.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.