The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission went too far when it issued a subpoena for information on a car component manufacturer’s national employment practices when it was only investigating one facility, a federal appeals court said in a divided opinion that affirmed a lower court ruling.
In 2017, a former employee who worked at the Northport, Alabama, facility of Novi, Michigan-based Eberspaecher North America Inc. filed a charge with the EEOC alleging the company had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by firing him from his job following a series of disability-related absences, according to Tuesday’s ruling by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission vs. Eberspaecher North America Inc.
The EEOC charged ENA’s Northport facility with unlawful employment practices under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act. The agency first requested information on ENA’s Northport facility, then followed that up with a request for nationwide data.
ENA refused to provide the nationwide information, and the EEOC issued a subpoena seeking it. The agency applied for the subpoena’s enforcement with the U.S. District Court in Birmingham, Alabama.
The district court ordered the company to turn over information related to the Northport facility, but refused to enforce the subpoena as to information from other facilities, holding it was not relevant to the EEOC’s Northport-related charge.
In affirming the lower court, the two members of the three-judge panel said, “The only employer listed in the charge is ENA’s Northport facility, and the charge cannot be fairly read to target companywide misconduct.”
“We disagree that the (nationwide) information is relevant to the charge against the Northport facility,” it said.
The dissenting opinion said the subpoena “falls well within” the EEOC’s investigatory power, “and the charge for us raises no compelling reason to disturb the longstanding latitude the Supreme Court has afforded EEOC investigations.”
Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.