Staffing firm Aerotek was ordered by an appeals court to keep available names of client companies at 62 of its locations nationwide as part of an age discrimination investigation by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals opinion, issued March 4,, upholds a district court ruling.
EEOC investigators had subpoenaed the names of client companies as well as the names and contact information for internal and external workers at 62 Aerotek sites as part of an investigation that began in 2013, according to court records. Aerotek fought the subpoena and at one point supplied the information on workers but not the names of clients. It ultimately supplied all the data in response to a lower court’s ruling, but the EEOC would have returned the information if Aerotek had prevailed in the Court of Appeals..
Aerotek objected to providing the names of more than 22,000 clients when the vast majority were not related to problematic job requests, according to court records.
“We’re very disappointed in the decision,” said to Tanya Axenson, Aerotek’s VP, human resources. “Throughout the investigation we have asked the EEOC to share the specific problems it claims to have found, but the EEOC has refused to do so. We have also gone to great lengths to protect the names of our clients who even the EEOC agrees have done nothing wrong. The decision was not about the merits of the EEOC’s investigation. It is unfortunate, however, that the decision endorses what we believe is a clear overreach by the Commission.
“Aerotek is committed to providing equal employment opportunities to all applicants and will continue to ensure that our policies and practices uphold those principles,” she concluded.
The subpoena for information from the 62 Aerotek sites followed an earlier subpoena for information on all client job requisitions nationwide from January 2009 through 2013. The earlier subpoena also sought information on external workers referred by Aerotek’s Illinois operations and internal Aerotek workers in Illinois.
Aerotek partially complied with the first subpoena, and based on that the EEOC found “hundreds” of discriminatory requests by clients at the 62 sites, according to court records. “For example, one request noted that the client and his employees were in their 20s and that ‘a person in their 40s or 50s would not be a cultural fit,’” according to court filings. “Another client was looking for ‘young entergetic [sic] guys with some sports knowledge and good attention to detail.’ Still another sought a ‘Fresh College Grad.’”
In upholding the district court’s decision, the Court of Appeals ruled the inquiry is within the authority of the EEOC and relevant to the agency’s investigation of age discrimination. It also rebuffed an issue of whether providing such information would equal an undue burden on Aerotek.
“Aerotek has now produced the information and makes no claim that the process of producing the information was unusually difficult or costly,” according to the Court of Appeals. “The company’s only objection appears to be that production of this information will harm its business relationships with its clients. But it provides no basis for this fear and speculation is inadequate to establish undue burden.”