If you ever have to face off against the EEOC in court, watch out! The commission has great discretion to expand a case that may have begun with just one employee.
In doing so, it may demand a long list of information about your employees, past and present.
As long as the information is relevant to the subject of the initial lawsuit, the EEOC will probably get access to the data, including names, addresses and contact information. Once the EEOC has that information, it’s essentially available to anyone willing to file a Freedom of Information Act request.
Here’s the danger: Attorneys for the employee who made the initial complaint may then misuse the information by passing it along to union organizers.
Fortunately, employers have a way to fight back. Before turning over employee information to the EEOC, ask the court to order confidentiality. That just worked for one employer.
Recent case: Christian complained to the EEOC that while working at a Farmer’s Pride chicken processing plant, a female supervisor sexually harassed him. Christian claimed she did the same to others, creating a hostile work environment.
The EEOC sued Farmer’s Pride and secured a subpoena requiring the company to turn over a list of all employees who worked at the plant.
Meanwhile, union organizers set up a meeting where they encouraged Farmer’s Pride employees already identified in the litigation to sign union pledge cards.
Farmer’s Pride feared that releasing more names and addresses would lead to more employees signing up to seek union representation.
The court agreed that the contact information would be sealed and kept confidential so it couldn’t be used for unrelated purposes like union solicitation. (EEOC v. Farmer’s Pride, No. 12-MC-148, ED PA, 2012)