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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Quad/Graphics

August 21, 1995




Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. No. 94 M 42 -- Myron L. Gordon, Judge.

Before CUMMINGS and RIPPLE, Circuit Judges, and WILL, District Judge. *fn1

RIPPLE, Circuit Judge.



This is an appeal by Quad/Graphics, Inc. from an order of the district court enforcing an administrative subpoena of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The district court rejected Quad/Graphics' claims that the subpoena was based on an invalid charge, was issued in bad faith, and was unduly burdensome. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.


On November 5, 1993, Commissioner R. Gaull Silberman issued an EEOC Commissioner charge, dated November 1, against Quad/Graphics. A Commissioner charge is a discrimination claim issued by an EEOC Commissioner alone; there is no private charging party. Commissioner Silberman stated under oath that, "based on interviews, testimonial evidence and other information," she believed Quad/Graphics had engaged in discriminatory practices in violation of Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. R.1, Ex.A. The charge alleged that Quad/Graphics had violated the statutes by:

Failing to recruit and/or hire Asians, Hispanics, and individuals over the age of 40 because of their race, national origin and/or age. Id.

The charge further alleged that these discriminatory acts had occurred during a period beginning on January 1, 1991. As a result of the charge, the EEOC submitted to Quad/Graphics a document containing ten specifically enumerated requests for employment data. After a series of meetings, Quad/Graphics refused to comply with the requests. The Commission then subpoenaed the information. Although the subpoena initially was not so limited, the EEOC later agreed to limit its scope to four plants in southeastern Wisconsin. Quad/Graphics refused to comply with the subpoena. The EEOC then sought to enforce the subpoena in the district court.

The district court enforced the subpoena. See 868 F. Supp. 1078 (E.D. Wis. 1994). It rejected Quad/Graphics' argument that the Commission's charge was required to specify the job classifications under investigation. The court noted that, in EEOC v. Shell Oil Co., 466 U.S. 54, 73 (1984), the Supreme Court stated that the EEOC should supply such information "[i]nsofar as [it] is able." The court reasoned that, under Shell Oil Co., "[i]dentification of the job classifications at issue may be preferable, but it is not mandatory." 868 F. Supp. at 1082. In the district court's view, the charge adequately described the alleged violations. Next, the district court rejected Quad/Graphics' claim that the EEOC undertook its investigation in bad faith. It found the EEOC's request for data reasonable and determined that there was no evidence that the EEOC initiated the investigation to retaliate against Quad/Graphics for failing to cooperate with a Department of Labor audit. Finally, the court rejected Quad/Graphics' claim that it would be unduly burdensome to comply with the subpoena. The court discounted Quad/Graphics' estimate that the company would require over 200,000 hours to comply with the subpoena on the ground that the estimate was based upon inefficient data collection methods. The district court termed the estimate "a gross exaggeration," id. at 1084, produced by "determining the most inefficient way in which to collect the requested data." Id. Subsequently, the district court stayed its order pending this appeal. 875 F. Supp. 558 (E.D. Wis. 1995). The court believed the stay was justified because otherwise the case would become moot pending appeal. Id. at 560.



We turn first to the general principles that govern the enforcement of administrative subpoenas. As a general proposition, courts enforce an administrative subpoena if it seeks reasonably relevant information, is not too indefinite, and relates to an investigation within the agency's authority. EEOC v. Tempel Steel Co., 814 F.2d 482, 484 (7th Cir. 1987); EEOC v. Illinois State Tollway Auth., 800 F.2d 656, 658 (7th Cir. 1986); EEOC v. A.E. Staley Mfg. Co., 711 F.2d 780, 783 (7th Cir. 1983), cert. denied, 466 U.S. 936 (1984); see University of Pa. v. EEOC, 493 U.S. 182, 191 (1990). The court must, however, be satisfied that the demand for information is not " 'too indefinite' " and that it has not " 'been made for an illegitimate purpose.' " University of Pa., 493 U.S. at 191 (quoting EEOC v. Shell Oil Co., 466 U.S. 54, 72 n.26 (1984)). A subpoena will not be enforced if the demand is "excessively burdensome," EEOC v. Illinois Dep't of Employment Sec., 995 F.2d 106, 109 (7th Cir. 1993), that is, if "compliance would threaten the normal operation of a respondent's business." EEOC v. Bay Shipbuilding Corp., 668 F.2d 304, 313 (7th Cir. 1981).

As we noted in Dow Chemical Co. v. Allen, 672 F.2d 1262 (7th Cir. 1982), a district court's decision to enforce an agency subpoena ...

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