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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Farmer's Pride

October 31, 2012

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION
v.
FARMER'S PRIDE, INC.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Surrick, J.

MEMORANDUM

Presently before the Court is Applicant Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Application for an Order to Show Cause Why an Administrative Subpoena Should Not Be Enforced. (ECF No. 1.) For the following reasons, Applicant's Application will be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND

Respondent Farmer's Pride, Inc. is a poultry processing facility that operates a facility in Fredericksburg, Pennsylvania. (EEOC Appl. ¶ 4, ECF No. 1; see also Resp.'s Pet. to Revoke, Lewis Decl. Attach. 7, EEOC Appl. Ex. A.) On June 20, 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") received an amended charge of discrimination filed by an individual named Christian Ramirez, alleging that Respondent discriminated against him on the basis of sex and retaliated against him in violation of Title VII. (Lewis Decl. ¶ 4(a); see also Charge of Discrimination, Lewis Decl. Attach. 1.)*fn1 Ramirez alleges that he was sexually harassed by his female supervisor, Adelaida Colon, at Respondent's facility in Fredericksburg. (Charge of Discrimination.) In addition, Ramirez alleges that Colon "made comments of a sexual nature to me and other workers. She has also touched me and other workers, both male and female, in a sexual manner by reaching underneath the workers' clothes and grabbing (or attempting to grab) their buttocks, breasts, and genitals. She has reached under my pants while I was working." (Id.) Ramirez also alleges that two male supervisors, Juan Sosa and Jose Luis, "act[ed] inappropriately towards women workers," and on that basis, believes that he and "similarly situated workers" have been sexually harassed. (Id.) Ramirez claims that he has "been unlawfully retaliated against for complaining about this harassment," and on June 20, 2011, he was forced to resign. (Id.) The EEOC commenced an investigation into the matter.

On August 16, 2011, the EEOC served upon Respondent a written request for information. (Lewis Decl. ¶ 4(b); Req. For Info., Lewis Decl. Attach. 2.) The August 16 request sought, among other things, "personnel information" for all employees supervised by Colon, Sosa and Luis while employed by Respondent. The "personnel information" included the employee's name, contact information, job title, department, shift, sex, and whether he or she complained about sexual harassment. (Lewis Decl. ¶ 4(b); Req. For Info. ¶ 17.) On November 3, 2011, the EEOC sent Respondent a letter following up on its request for information. (Lewis Decl. ¶ 4(c); Nov. 3 Ltr., Lewis Decl. Attach. 3.) Specifically, the EEOC reiterated its request for the personnel information for all employees supervised by Colon, Sosa and Luis. (Id.) The EEOC also made a supplemental request for "[d]ocuments relating to any and all complaints of sexual harassment, whether made formally or informally, since January 2009." (Id.) By letter of November 10, 2011, Respondent objected to, among other things, the EEOC's request for the personnel information as not relevant, overly broad and unduly burdensome. (Lewis Decl. ¶ 4(d); Nov. 10 Ltr., Lewis Decl. Attach. 4.)*fn2 Respondent also claimed that neither Colon nor Luis were supervisors on the production line and that neither served as supervisors to any employees. (Nov. 10 Ltr. 2.) With respect to the supplemental request for "[d]ocuments relating to any and all complaints of sexual harassment, whether made formally or informally, since January 2008,"*fn3 Respondent objected to the request as not relevant, overly broad and unduly burdensome. (Id. at 4.) Respondent did provide documentation of an informal complaint from two employees in the deboning department from December 2009 and the action taken by Respondent as a result of the complaint. (Id. at 4 & Ex. E.)

On January 24, 2012, the EEOC issued and served upon Respondent Subpoena No. PA-12-12 ("Subpoena"). (EEOC Appl. ¶¶ 5-6; see also Lewis Decl. ¶ 4(e); Subpoena, Lewis Decl. Attach. 5; see also Lewis Decl. Attach. 6 (proof of service).) The Subpoena requests:

(1) List all employees supervised by Juan Sosa during his tenure at Farmers Pride. Provide each employees name, address, telephone number, job title(s), shift, and the dates supervised by Mr. Sosa.

(2) All documents relating to any and all complaints of sexual harassment, whether made formally or informally, against or relating to Adelaide Colon, Juan Sosa or Jose Luis. This includes all documents generated pursuant to the investigation of any complaint of sexual harassment.

(3) All documents relating to any and all complaints of sexual harassment, whether made formally or informally, since January 2008. (Subpoena.) On January 31, 2012, Respondent filed a petition to revoke the Subpoena, which the EEOC received on February 1, 2012. (EEOC Appl.¶ 7; Lewis Decl. ¶ 4(g) & Attach. 7 (Pet. To Revoke).)

On March 6, 2012, the EEOC sent Respondent's counsel a letter, stating that it had received some responsive information from Respondent but needed additional information. Among the additional information it needed was "[a] sortable Excel spreadsheet identifying all employees, from 2008 through the present, in the Deboning Department. Such spreadsheet should indicate the following information for each employee: name, last known address, last known telephone number, Social Security Number, hire date, starting position(s) and department, subsequent positions and department, shift assignment for each position, and termination date (if applicable)." (Mar. 6 Ltr., Resp.'s Answer Ex. 3.) On April 5, 2012, the EEOC denied Respondent's petition to revoke. (EEOC Appl. ¶ 7; Lewis Decl. ¶ 4(g) & Attach. 8.) On April 24, 2012, Respondent provided the EEOC with the names and hire dates of active employees supervised by Sosa. However, Respondent did not provide the names of non-active employees supervised by Sosa while employed with Respondent, the contact information for all employees supervised by Sosa, or all complaints of sexual harassment at Respondent's facility since 2008. (Lewis Decl. ¶ 4(h).) On April 26, 2012, an EEOC attorney discussed with Respondent's counsel the Subpoena and again requested production. (Id. at ¶ 4(i).) The EEOC claims that Respondent has since refused to comply with the remaining requests of the Subpoena, which "has delayed and hampered the EEOC's investigation." (EEOC Appl. ¶¶ 8-9; Lewis Decl. ¶¶ 4(i), 5.)

On May 18, 2012, the EEOC filed an Application for an Order to Show Cause Why an Administrative Subpoena Should Not Be Enforced ("Application"). (EEOC Appl..) The Application sought to enforce the Subpoena. (EEOC Mem. 1, ECF No. 1.) The Subpoena sought the names and contact information of potential witnesses and victims supervised by an alleged employee of Respondent, and documents related to sexual harassment complaints filed at Respondent's Fredericksburg facility since 2008. On June 28, 2012, Respondent filed an Answer to the Application. (Resp.'s Answer, ECF No. 7.) The EEOC filed a Reply to Respondent's Answer on July 10, 2012. (EEOC Reply, ECF No. 10.) A hearing on the Application was held on July 13, 2012. (See ECF No. 12.) At the hearing, we heard testimony from Liz Chacko, Esquire, an attorney for Friends of Farmworkers ("FOF") who also represents Ramirez, we admitted exhibits into evidence, and we heard argument from counsel. On July 16, 2012, the EEOC, with the Court's prior approval, filed a letter statement, which attached further documentation concerning the Application. (EEOC Ltr., ECF No. 11.) On July 18, 2012, Respondent filed, with the Court's prior permission, a Surreply to the EEOC's Application. (Resp.'s Surreply, ECF No. 13.) The EEOC seeks an Order directing Respondent to comply fully with the Subpoena and granting the EEOC costs for enforcing the Subpoena. (EEOC Appl.¶ 10.)

II. LEGAL STANDARD*fn4

The EEOC is empowered to investigate charges of discrimination to determine whether there is reasonable cause to believe that an employer has engaged in an unlawful employment practice. See 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-9. In connection with its investigation, the EEOC may issue administrative subpoenas. See id.; 29 U.S.C. § 161(1). "However, the EEOC's statutory investigative authority is not plenary. It is entitled to access only evidence 'relevant to the charge under investigation.'" Kronos, 620 F.3d at 296 (quoting 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-8(a)).

To obtain court enforcement of an administrative subpoena, an agency must demonstrate that: (1) its investigation has a legitimate purpose; (2) the inquiry is relevant to that purpose; (3) the agency does not already possess the information requested; (4) the agency has complied with relevant administrative requirements; and (5) the demand is not "'unreasonably broad or burdensome.'" Id. at n.4 (quoting Univ. of Med. & Dentistry of N.J. v. Corrigan, 347 F.3d 57, 64 (3d Cir. 2003)). When a party requests a district court to enforce an administrative subpoena, the court's role is not to determine "whether a charge of discrimination is 'well founded' or 'verifiable.'" Univ. of Penn. v. EEOC, 493 U.S. 182, 190 (1990) (quoting EEOC v. Shell Oil Co., 466 U.S. 54, 72 n.26 (1984)).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Relevance

Relevancy in the context of an EEOC investigation under Title VII is wider-reaching than in the context of the Federal Rules of Evidence. See EEOC v. Franklin & Marshall Coll., 775 F.2d 110, 115 (3d Cir. 1985) (noting that the EEOC is not limited to "that ...


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