EEOC v. McLane Co.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Employment Law
  • Date Filed: 10-27-2015
  • Case #: 13-15126
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Watford for the Court; Circuit Judges Wallace and Smith; Concurrence by Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has broad powers to investigate potential violations of Title VII, and need only establish that the evidence it seeks is relevant and material, not that it is necessary, to the investigation.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) investigated a sex discrimination claim filed against McLane Company (“McLane”) by a former employee who was fired after failing to pass a strength test when she returned from maternity leave. The EEOC sought information about McLane’s use of the test, including pedigree information (personal identifying information) and reasons for termination following testing, which McLane withheld. The EEOC filed an administrative subpoena to receive the information. The district court refused to enforce the subpoena requirements to provide the pedigree information and the reasons for termination of employees who had taken the test. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit noted that the EEOC has broad power to investigate potential violations of the statute, and may obtain any information relevant to the alleged violation. The panel held that a reviewing court must determine: “(1) whether Congress has granted the authority to investigate; (2) whether procedural requirements have been followed; and (3) whether the evidence is relevant and material to the investigation.” If these three conditions are met, the court “must enforce the subpoena unless the objecting party shows that the subpoena is overbroad or that compliance would be unduly burdensome.” The panel found the pedigree information was relevant to the EEOC investigation, as it allowed the EEOC to contact test takers and compare patterns of treatment. The panel reversed the refusal to compel production of the pedigree information, vacated the denial of enforcement of the request for reasons for termination of other employees, and remanded so that the district court could determine whether production of the information would be unduly burdensome. REVERSED in Part, VACATED in Part, and REMANDED.

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