On March 4, 2016, the 7th Circuit affirmed an order of the district court in an enforcement action, which granted the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (“EEOC”) application for enforcement of subpoenas it served on a staffing agency and its clients for information to determine whether the agency or its clients are engaged in age-related employment discrimination. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Aerotek, Inc., No. 15-1690 (7th Cir., 3/4/2016). The staffing agency supplies temporary workers to its clients. The EEOC sought information regarding the agency’s practices in recruitment, hiring, and placement of its workers. The EEOC’s initial review of the information it received revealed hundreds of discriminatory job requests by the staffing agency’s clients. One request stated that the client and his employees were in their twenties and that “a person in their 40s or 50s would not be a cultural fit.” Another client was looking for “young energetic guys with some sports knowledge….” Yet another sought a “Fresh College Grad.”
The EEOC served another subpoena for additional and more detailed information about the individuals who were assigned to the company’s clients, including their names, dates of birth, contact information, and the names of the clients to whom they were assigned. The agency partially complied, but redacted key information. The EEOC requested that the agency provide the redacted information, but the agency refused. The EEOC then issued yet another subpoena, seeking the names of the clients and workers, with the contact information for the workers, but only for the facilities where it had already identified discriminatory requests. The agency refused to comply, and the EEOC filed its enforcement action. The 7th Circuit held that the district court properly enforced the EEOC’s subpoena. The Fair Labor Standards Act, which includes the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), provides the EEOC with the authority to investigate potential violations merely on suspicion that the law is being violated, or even just because it wants assurance that it is not. The EEOC has broad power to investigate age discrimination in employment, without the necessity of bringing a charge. Therefore, the EEOC acted within its statutory authority; the information sought is relevant to the EEOC’s investigation; and the district court was correct to require the staffing agency to comply with the subpoenas.