The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has prevailed in a dispute with an employer over access to employee “pedigree” information. A ruling by the federal appeals court governing California required the employer to provide the information on employees who had taken the same strength test as an employee who had been fired. The pedigree information requested included name, Social Security number, home address, and phone number.
The case involved a female employee who had returned from maternity leave. According to policy, the employee was required to take a strength test before returning to her warehouse job. After failing the test multiple times, she was fired. She later filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.
In the course of investigating the complaint, the EEOC requested the pedigree information on other employees who had taken the test. The employer provide general information about the previous test takers, but it refused to provide the pedigree information.
A district court agreed with the employer, finding that the pedigree information was not relevant at the probable cause stage of the EEOC’s investigation. The appeal court, however, reversed the lower court, finding that the requested information was relevant because the test results could be applied in a discriminatory fashion from employee to employee.
A concern for the employer, and one that could be shared by employees whose information is shared, is that the pedigree information is typically private information that is protected from disclosure. The circuit court pointed out that the anti-discrimination law under which the suit was brought–the Civil Rights Act–contained strict limitations on the disclosure of information received during investigations by the EEOC. In the court’s view, this provision sufficiently protected the employees’ privacy rights otherwise provided by law.
The ruling demonstrates that in the federal court system in California, employers will be required to cooperate fully with EEOC investigations of discrimination. This will sometimes include providing pedigree information of other employees. Contact Labor Law Office, APC today to speak with a professional discrimination lawyer in Redding.
Sacramento, CA 95821