Press Release

FEDERAL COURT BARS STATE AGENCY FROM INTERFERING WITH EEOC INVESTIGATION

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PRESS RELEASE
6-24-09

Judge Rejects Department of Developmental Services' Protective Order Request

LOS ANGELES – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that federal Magistrate Judge Sandra M. Snyder has issued a court order requiring that the Department of Developmental Services (DDS) not interfere with the EEOC's investigation of the California state agency, which provides services and support to persons with developmental disabilities. DDS allegedly threatened witnesses with criminal prosecution if they cooperated with the EEOC's investigation.

The EEOC is investigating charges of workplace discrimination alleging that DDS subjected at least three of its employees, known as peace officers, to discrimination and harassment based on race, sex, disability, and/or retaliation. The court further denied DDS's request for a protective order that would have interfered with the EEOC's record keeping procedures and imposed duties that both U.S. Congress and the U.S. Supreme Court deem unnecessary in EEOC investigations.

The Fresno Local Office of the EEOC received the charges of discrimination against DDS and is conducting the investigation. The EEOC was forced to issue subpoenas for two DDS employees to give testimony in the federal investigation after concluding that DDS interfered, intimidated and even threatened witnesses with criminal prosecution if they cooperated with its investigation.

The EEOC filed its action (EEOC vs. Department of Developmental Services, Cynthia Coppage and Lane Owyang, Case No. CV -01902-LJO-SMS) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California located in Fresno. In addition to denying DDS's attempt to seek a protective order, Magistrate Judge Snyder ordered that DDS and its counsel:

  • Not interfere with the EEOC's investigation of the charges underlying the present action and any claims related to the charges;
  • Not interfere, threaten or cause criminal prosecution of any witness who cooperates with the EEOC; and
  • Not be present at any EEOC interviews of witnesses not represented by DDS, including those of respondents Owyang and Coppage; and respondents Owyang and Coppage to appear in the EEOC's Fresno office, cooperate with the EEOC and complete their subpoenaed testimony.

EEOC Regional Attorney Anna Y. Park in Los Angeles said, "The EEOC will not allow any employer, whether it is a private or state agency, to interfere with its federal investigations. We will not tolerate any attempts by employers to coerce, intimidate, or interfere with witnesses subject to an agency investigation. The district court's order affirms the EEOC's authority to obtain evidence germane to its investigation."

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.


This page was last modified on June 24, 2009.

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