Staffing Giant Must Comply With Subpoena Covering 62 Locations Across the Country
CHICAGO - A federal judge has approved a subpoena allowing the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to proceed with its age discrimination investigation of staffing firm Aerotek, Inc., the federal agency announced today.
During the course of EEOC's investigation of Aerotek, which was initiated by then-Chicago District Director John Rowe, the Commission found hundreds of age-based employee referral requests from Aerotek's clients all across the country. The EEOC's subpoena sought portions of Aerotek's employee referral database from the 62 Aerotek locations where the requests were documented. In response, Aerotek refused to provide the EEOC with names and contact information of its clients and employees. The EEOC asked the court to order the production of this information. U.S. District Judge Milton Shadur ruled from the bench in the EEOC's favor on Feb. 18 and ordered that Aerotek comply fully with the federal agency's subpoena. Aerotek then asked Judge Shadur to alter his decision, which he denied on March 20.
At oral argument, Judge Shadur stated, "[I]t would seem to me that having been alerted to the fact that some of these clients engage in activities that on their face are age discriminatory, that Aerotek might have a responsibility for doing some better policing of its own clients before it takes them on in that regard." Shadur continued, "[EEOC is] responsible for trying to see that there are not violations of [the Age Discrimination in Employment Act]. And what they have done up to now is to say 'Based on what we have seen we know that there are sufficient number of their situations that deserve further inquiry.' And the inquiry is not - simply into the ones that they have already identified. That is not much … of an investigation, is it?"
Julianne Bowman, acting director of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, said, "Staffing agencies work hand-in-hand with their clients to hire, assign and place employees, and if discriminatory requests are made or honored, then both the staffing agency and the client are susceptible to EEOC investigation. This is a very important ruling because staffing agencies, just like any other employer, have a duty to make employment decisions in a non-discriminatory manner. Once the EEOC has identified a potential violation of the law, it has the authority to further investigate that issue to see if there are more violations at the company."
EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John Hendrickson added, "Just two years ago the Seventh Circuit ordered Aerotek to comply with an EEOC subpoena in a separate investigation. (EEOC v. Aerotek, Inc., No. 11-1349 (7th Cir. Jan. 11, 2013)). Apparently, Aerotek did not get the message, as it once again refused to comply fully with an EEOC subpoena. Aerotek has spent years fighting the EEOC, and where has it gotten the company? The same place it would have been had it not fought the agency. Employers should take a lesson from this case - noncompliance with an EEOC subpoena doesn't pay."
Aerotek, with its corporate headquarters in Hanover, Md., states on its website that it has over 150 offices in the United States, Puerto Rico and Canada.
The EEOC investigation of Aerotek is being managed by EEOC Acting District Director Julianne Bowman in Chicago. The lead investigator is Eric Lamb. In addition to Regional Attorney Hendrickson, the EEOC's litigation team consisted of Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason and Trial Attorney Aaron DeCamp.
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.