As we reported earlier, employers are challenging – and courts are taking steps to reign in — EEOC subpoena power. In a recent decision issued by a federal court in Illinois, the employer successfully challenged an EEOC subpoena that sought confidential health information that was irrelevant to the charge before it.
In EEOC v. Loyola University Medical Center.PDF, the EEOC was charged with investigating the allegations of one employee who claimed that she had been discriminated against on the basis of a disability because she was required to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination. In the course of its investigation, the EEOC subpoenaed records for all employees who had been required to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination regardless of whether the employee held a position similar to the charging party, worked for the same supervisor, or had anything else in common with the charging party that might shed light on the validity of her allegations. The employer refused to provide the records, citing their irrelevance to the charge and their confidentiality. In response, the EEOC sought court enforcement of the subpoena.
The court denied the EEOC’s request. In so doing, it held that “the medical records of other employees would shed no light whatsoever” on the merits of the underlying charge. The court also found that the records were not likely to reveal related evidence of discrimination.
Although subpoenas of any sort are not to be ignored, employers and their attorneys should carefully consider the scope of the request before automatically turning over documents that have little to do with the allegations at hand.