In a case of first impression, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) properly issued a subpoena for an employer to provide information about how religious exemptions to its uniform and personal appearance guidelines are handled as to all of its facilities nationwide, even though the charge being investigated involved only one individual at a facility in New York.
In this case, a Muslim employee alleged that he was not allowed to work on a public-contract job without shaving his beard. He was told that his beard violated company policy. As part of its investigation, the EEOC issued a subpoena seeking information on how the policy was applied at every facility nationwide. The court held that the subpoena must be enforced because the employer's guidelines applied to every one of its facilities in the country. EEOC v. United Parcel Serv. In. (November 20, 2009).
What this decision means:
In the vast majority of cases, an employee that alleges job discrimination is limited to information about the specific facility in which the discrimination allegedly occurred. However, where the employer has a policy that applies at multiple facilities, the employee (or EEOC) will be entitled to discover how that policy is applied nationwide. This scrutiny may lead to other similar claims that arise from other facilities. Thus, to avoid multiple claims and the potential for class action litigation, employers with multiple facilities must take care that policies are implemented uniformly and consistently across the country.