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Court Orders Frozen Food Giant Schwan’s To Comply with EEOC Subpoena in Sex Bias Case

Company Must Now Supply Information to Cooperate With Federal Agency’s Investigation of Sex Discrimination, Sexual Harassment and Retaliation

MINNEAPOLIS – In a ruling issued late on March 8, 2010, Magistrate Judge Janie S. Mayeron of U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota ordered the Minnesota-based frozen food delivery company Schwan’s Home Service to comply with a federal government subpoena by March 29, 2010. The subpoena, issued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) pursuant to an investigation of a charge of sex discrimination filed by former Schwan’s employee Kim Milliren, seeks personnel information about persons employed as general managers at Schwan’s facilities nationwide from January 1, 2006 to the present.

The EEOC filed its subpoena enforcement proceeding on October 5, 2009 (EEOC v. Schwan’s Home Service, Misc. Case No. 09-84 (JRT/JSM)) after first giving Schwan’s several opportunities to provide the requested information voluntarily, which would have allowed the investigation to remain confidential. In opposing the EEOC’s enforcement of the subpoena, Schwan’s accused the EEOC of pursuing a “fishing expedition” and suggested that the EEOC may be engaging in misconduct.

On July 3, 2007, the EEOC’s Minneapolis Area Office received a charge filed under Title VII by Milliren, alleging that she was discriminated against on the basis of gender and subjected to sexual harassment and retaliation during her employment with Schwan’s Home Service. Milliren was selected to participate in Schwan’s General Manager Development Program, a training program that trains candidates to be location general managers at its warehouse depots throughout the country. Since that time, the EEOC has been investigating whether Milliren and other women were subjected to sex discrimination in the General Manager Development Program.

John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office which is managing the investigation said, “Make no mistake about it; the EEOC will take recalcitrant employers to court and will enforce its subpoenas. As the court’s opinion demonstrates, the EEOC is on solid legal footing to seek information it deems relevant during an investigation of systemic discrimination.”

EEOC Regional Attorney John Hendrickson added, “Employers who try to thwart an EEOC investigation by resisting a subpoena do themselves no favors as they will likely end up on the losing side in court, and they will make the investigation public. Ongoing EEOC investigations are not matters of the public record unless and until we are forced to go to court to enforce a subpoena.”

Schwan’s Home Service is a wholly owned subsidiary of The Schwan’s Food Company, based in Marshall, Minn. Schwan’s Home Service, the company’s home delivery service, has approximately 500 sales and distribution centers throughout the United States. The Schwan Food Company is a multi-billion-dollar private company with approximately 18,000 employees worldwide.

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at