by Michael Fox
One of the worries about submitting information to agencies investigating workplace issues is the risk that it will be released to an employer's detriment. While the worry is real, the ability to get much judicial guidance is limited as it takes a unique set of circumstances for it to happen.
But happen it did and earlier this week the D.C. Circuit addressed the issue. The opening paragraph outlined the unusual circumstances, and its holding:
Seven years ago, Venetian Casino Resort, LLC repaired to district court for an injunction to keep the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from disclosing certain confidential information without notice. The district court dismissed the case as unripe, but we held otherwise and remanded the case for proceedings on the merits. The district court then granted the Commission’s motion for summary judgment and Venetian appealed, arguing the Commission’s disclosure policy is unlawful. We agree, reverse, and remand the case for the district court to enter an injunction prohibiting the Commission from disclosing Venetian’s confidential information pursuant to its current disclosure policy.
Although not totally clear from the opinion, this seems to be concern about the garden variety turning over of information submitted by the Venetian to a lawyer (or potential one) for the plaintiff, even though the Ventian had identified the information as confidential.
Although it's a victory for Venetian for the time being, it seems likely only to force the EEOC into coming up with a better rationalization for its rules, or a rule that makes it clear that the Commission should give an employer notice and chance to respond before releasing the data.
That's the possibility offered by Professor McCormick in her analysis of the case at Workplace Prof Blog, The EEOC and Disclosure of Employer Data. Although I don't always agree with the academics at Workplace Prof Blog, even though it is clearly one of the best sources of current employment law information on the web, this is one of those occasions where I do.