The US Supreme Court denied a petition Monday to consider whether the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can continue investigations and request broad employment information after a worker has filed a lawsuit.
As is customary, the court did not provide their rationale for denying the petition. However, Justice Clarence Thomas issued a dissent to the denial of certiorari. Thomas argued that the lawsuit presented an opportunity to determine whether the EEOC’s actions stay within the limits imposed by Congress. Thomas also cited disagreement between the US Courts of Appeal for the Seventh, Ninth and Fifth Circuits over the issue. The Seventh and Ninth Circuits have ruled that the EEOC can continue their investigations after a lawsuit has been filed. The Fifth Circuit has ruled otherwise.
The case comes from an EEOC investigation into VF Jeanswear, which began after one of VF Jeanswear’s saleswomen claimed the company demoted her because of her sex. The EEOC continued their investigation despite not intervening in the lawsuits the employee filed in state and federal court. Furthering their investigation, the EEOC subpoenaed data on the company’s management, among other things. When the Ninth Circuit ordered compliance with the subpoena, VF Jeanswear petitioned the court for a writ of certiorari. Thomas has warned that employers will face fallout from the court’s denial of the petition.