The EEOC can obtain five years’ worth of job assignment records from a temporary staffing agency that allegedly discriminated by refusing to reassign a temporary worker who could not read and write English; the 4th Circuit says the district court should defer to the EEOC’s assessment of relevance.
Complainant Kevin Morrison lives in Maryland but was born in Jamaica, and he cannot read or write English. He complained to the EEOC that respondent Randstad terminated his employment under a requirement that employees read and write English, in violation of Title VII’s prohibition against national origin discrimination. Two years later, he amended his charge to claim a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act, alleging his learning disability prevented him from learning to read and write English.
The EEOC served an administrative subpoena seeking “documents or a data compilation” for “all non-administrative position assignments” made by respondent Randstad’s 13 offices in Maryland, from 2005 through 2009, including position title, client name and date of assignment. The EEOC also requested copies of job orders and job descriptions for each position, copies of all applications for each position and a statement for each position on whether reading and writing was required for the job.
The district court denied enforcement of the EEOC subpoena. The district court rejected on relevance grounds Morrison’s national original discrimination claim as a basis for enforcing the subpoena. The court disagreed with the EEOC’s alleged factual nexus between national origin discrimination and literacy requirements. In particular, the court expressed skepticism about the causal link between Morrison’s Jamaican origin and his illiteracy. As for the ADA, the district court rejected the commission’s relation-back argument, reasoning that when the amended charge added the ADA claim, a new theory of recovery was put forward, which does not relate back to the original charge. The court also said any information beyond that already produced by Randstad was irrelevant to the disability discrimination regarding the Hagerstown office and said records before the period of Morrison’s actual employment were beyond the scope allowed by the amended charge.
The district court’s denial of enforcement is reversed. First, the EEOC acted reasonably in interpreting the ADA as allowing the amended charge to relate back to the original charge. The factual allegations of the two charges were identical. The amendment did not assert a “stale” claim because it did not allege any discriminatory incidents other than those already included in the original charge. The original charge triggered the EEOC’s investigatory authority under Title VII, and the amended charge triggered its authority under the ADA.
Further, the district court’s application of an unduly strict standard of relevance amounted to legal error, leading to an abuse of discretion. Applying the correct standard, with deference to the EEOC’s assessment of relevance, we conclude that all of the EEOC’s requested materials fall within the broad definition of relevance applicable to EEOC administrative subpoenas. We conclude the district court’s rejection of the EEOC’s alleged factual nexus crossed the line into an assessment of the merits of Morrison’s claim.
We conclude the 13-office, five-year scope of the subpoena was not an unreasonable exercise of the EEOC’s discretion in deciding how to investigate whether Randstad’s literacy policy was discriminatory.
Reversed and remanded.
EEOC v. Randstad (Davis) No. 11-1759, July 18, 2012; USDC at Baltimore, Md. (Bennett) Susan R. Oxford, EEOC; John S. Snelling for appellees. VLW 012-2-163, 31 pp.