A recent ruling by the notoriously anti-employer Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals underscores one of the legitimate concerns employers have with sweeping information requests from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), i.e., the potential for the disclosure and abuse of personally identifiable information.
In EEOC v. McLane Company, Inc., No. 13-15126 (9th Cir. Oct. 27, 2015), the Ninth Circuit, reversing a trial court, enforced an EEOC subpoena requiring the company to produce, on a nationwide basis, personally identifiable information (including name, social security number, home address and telephone number) of all applicants and employees who were required to take a particular strength test.
In so ruling, the appeals court brushed off the company’s contention that in refusing to disclose personally identifiable information (including social security numbers) to the EEOC, it was acting to protect its employees’ privacy interests. The court reasoned that strict limitations on the public disclosure of information submitted by an employer to the EEOC during the course of an investigation provided sufficient safeguards.
The ruling is in keeping with other federal courts, which generally give EEOC broad latitude to demand information from a company as part of an agency discrimination charge investigation.
A copy of the Ninth Circuit’s opinion in McLane is available here.