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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Quantum Foods

April 26, 2010

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, APPLICANT,
v.
QUANTUM FOODS, LLC, RESPONDENT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Matthew F. Kennelly United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, District Judge

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed an application to enforce an administrative subpoena it issued to Quantum Foods, LLC (Quantum). The EEOC issued the subpoena in the course of an investigation of a charge against Quantum for national origin discrimination. Quantum objects to the document requests in the subpoena, claiming that they are irrelevant to the investigation of the underlying charge. Quantum also contends that the subpoena improperly requests confidential information, its time frame is overly broad, and it is unduly burdensome. For the following reasons, the Court enforces the subpoena in part and defers the matter in part pending an evidentiary hearing.

Background

Quantum operates a plant in Bolingbrook, Illinois where it processes meat products, which it sells to stores, restaurants and consumers. Quantum also operates Quantum Culinary, which does food and menu consulting for chain and independent restaurants. Quantum has a distribution center called Quantum Global Distribution Center that serves as a warehouse, and it owns the Choice One Foods plant, which it rents to an unrelated company. The majority of Quantum's employees are employed at the Bolingbrook plant, which has 1,106 employees. Quantum Culinary has 144 employees, Quantum Global Distribution Center employs fifty-nine, and Choice One Foods has one employee.

On March 19, 2009, Miguel Figueroa filed a charge with the EEOC alleging that during his employment as a butcher at Quantum's Bolingbrook plant, he was discriminated against based on his Hispanic national origin. He also alleged that Quantum retaliated by discharging him when he complained about being subjected to performance standards not required of his non-Hispanic co-workers. The EEOC notified Quantum of the charge on March 23, 2009.

During the investigation of his charge, Figueroa informed the EEOC that Quantum employs a large number of Polish employees in managerial and non-managerial positions and that his own supervisors were Polish. Figueroa alleged that Quantum treated non-Polish workers less favorably than Polish workers. He also claimed that he was disciplined and terminated for failing to meet standards not required of Polish employees. The EEOC reviewed the Bolingbrook plant's Employer Information Reports (EEO-1 forms) and found that it employs few African-Americans. The reports also showed that African-Americans and Hispanics are underrepresented at Quantum when compared to similar companies in the same geographic area.

The EEOC sent Quantum a request for information on May 28, 2009. In the request, the EEOC sought information concerning each facility owned or operated by Quantum, its corporate structure, its hiring procedures, job descriptions of every position at the facilities and qualifications for each position, and its record keeping policies. The EEOC also requested a list of persons who had applied but were not selected for positions with Quantum and a list of persons employed by the company since January 1, 2006. For each of these individuals, the EEOC requested the name; race or national origin; position or position applied for; date of application; date of rejection or hire; and the name, race and national origin of the primary rejection or hiring decision maker; copy of employment application and resume; last known home address; and all known home telephone numbers. For those who applied but were not hired, the EEOC also requested a copy of a driver's license or comparable identification (if applicable) and the reason for rejection. For those employed with the company, the EEOC requested their current employment status and, if applicable, the date of separation, reason for termination, and the name, race, and national origin of the primary decision maker in the separation. On June 1, 2009, the EEOC sent Quantum a second request for information. In this request, it sought copies of the company's employment advertisements and a list of its recruiting sources.

Quantum sent a response to the EEOC, dated June 12, 2009, in which it objected to the scope of the subpoena but agreed to submit information that it considered relevant to Figueroa's charge. Specifically, Quantum refused to provide the EEOC with information regarding its hiring, recruiting, and advertising policies and procedures. It also objected to listing all employees hired at all of its facilities since January 1, 2006. Instead, Quantum provided the EEOC with the requested information regarding other butchers similarly situated to Figueroa at its Bolingbrook location.

On June 22, 2009, the EEOC served a subpoena requesting the information Quantum had objected to providing in response to the initial request. On June 26, 2009, Quantum submitted a petition to revoke or modify the subpoena, which the EEOC denied on September 22, 2009. The EEOC's decision instructed Quantum to comply with the subpoena on or before October 12, 2009. Quantum sent the EEOC a response on October 12, 2009. It contended that the information sought was beyond the scope of the allegations in the charge and that retrieving the requested information would be unduly burdensome.

On February 1, 2010, Quantum discussed the subpoena with the EEOC and agreed to provide general information regarding all its facilities (i.e., location and number of employees). It also agreed to provide general information regarding its hiring practices and procedures, job descriptions of its production positions, a list of its recruiting sources, and copies of its employment advertisements. Quantum continues to object to the subpoena, however, to the extent that it seeks information concerning job applicants who have been denied employment, current and past employees, the names of the decision makers in the hiring, termination, or rejection process, and the reasons for those decisions. It also contends that the subpoena is overly broad because it seeks information concerning all Quantum facilities and because it is not limited to the butcher position, the job Figueroa held while employed at Quantum.

Discussion

1. Enforceability of Subpoena

The EEOC has jurisdiction to investigate the charges filed with its office alleging unlawful employment practices. 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b). The EEOC is authorized to issue subpoenas requiring the production of evidence. 29 C.F.R. § 1601.16(a). The party served with the subpoena may seek its revocation or modification within five days of service. Id. § 1601.16(b)(1). If the EEOC determines that it will uphold all or part of the subpoena and ...


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