Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Centura Health
ORDER by Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer on 9/1/17 re: 1 Petition/Application, and 42 Motion to Enforce Administrative Subpoena, filed by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOCs application to enforce the Subpoena is GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART as to items 9 and 18(e), consistent with this order. Centura shall produce the compelled information and documents within 30 days of Judge Martinez's ruling on any objections to this order, or if no objections are filed, then within 30 days of the expiration of time for such objections. (nmarb, ) Modified on 9/1/2017 to link to 42 and show motion as granted in part and denied in part. (nmarb, ).
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Case No. 16–mc–55–WJM–CBS
EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION,
Magistrate Judge Craig B. Shaffer
This matter is before the court on the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s
(“EEOC”) application to enforce an administrative subpoena issued to Centura Health
Corporation (“Centura”), dated December 11, 2014. Doc. 2–49 (the “Subpoena”). On
September 28, 2016, Judge William J. Martínez enforced the Subpoena in part and referred the
remainder to this court for further proceedings. Doc. 20 (“Referral Order”).
Between February 2011 and October 2014, the EEOC received eleven
discrimination charges against Centura. (ECF No. 2 at 3–6.) These charges
spanned six Centura medical facilities in Colorado and claimed violations of the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), the Age Discrimination in
Employment Act (“ADEA”), and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (Id.)
All eleven charges contained common allegations particularly of failure to
accommodate, or discipline and termination, in violation of the ADA. (Id.)
In December 2014, the EEOC issued an administrative subpoena to
Centura, requesting information and documents under eighteen headings….
Centura complied with certain parts of the subpoena but refused to comply with
items 1–9, 10(a), 11–12, 15(d), and 18.
Referral Order at pp. 1–2. Judge Martínez ordered Centura to comply with all disputed items
except those referred to as Compilation Requests: 9, 11(b), 12(b), 15(d) and 18(e). Id. at pp. 3–4.
The Compilation Requests ask for the following information and documents.
Item 9: “[A] compilation of detailed data from eleven Centura facilities regarding all
employees who requested an accommodation due to a medical condition since August 1,
2009.” Referral Order at p. 4; see Subpoena at pp. 2–3 ¶¶ 9(a)–(u).
Item 11(b): With regard to an individual charge 541–2012–963, “the names, titles and
dates of birth for all employees working at Centura Health Corporation, d/b/a St. MaryCorwin Medical Center who were sent for fitness for duty evaluation at any time from August
1, 2009, to the present.” Subpoena at p. 3 ¶ 11(b).
Item 12(b): With regard to the same individual charge as item 11(b), “a list of all
physicians working at the same facility as Dr. Keen who received patient complaints
from January 1, 2010, through and including December 31, 2011,” detailed data
regarding those physicians, copies of the patient complaints (or, if not written,
explanations of the complaints), and a description of any actions Centura took regarding
the complaints, and documentation thereof. Subpoena at p. 3 ¶ 12(b).
Item 15(d): With regard to an individual charge 541–2011–01885, “a list of all employees
working at Centura Health Corporation, d/b/a St. Anthony's Central and St.. Anthony's
Lakewood who have been discharged for sleeping on the job from August 1, 2009,
through and including the present. Submit all documentation to support your answer.”
Subpoena at p. 5 ¶ 15(d).
Item 18(e): With regard to an individual charge 32A–2012–00055, “a compilation of
detailed data regarding essentially every Centura employee in Colorado who was ever
identified by the company as disabled since August 1, 2009.” Referral Order at p. 4; see
Subpoena at p. 6 ¶¶ 18(e)(1)–(16).
Judge Martínez found each of these requests relevant.
The Court finds that this information is relevant to the EEOC’s investigation,
particularly given the number of ADA charges the EEOC has received and the
widespread geographic distribution of those charges. See EEOC v. Shell Oil Co.,
466 U.S. 54, 68–69 (1984) (“courts have generously construed the term ‘relevant’
and have afforded the Commission access to virtually any material that might cast
light on the allegations against the employer”; “it is crucial that the Commission’s
ability to investigate charges of systemic discrimination not be impaired”).
Referral Order at pp. 4–5.
As to the question of undue burden, the EEOC presented a declaration from its
investigator Troy Lutman. Mr. Lutman had met with Centura representatives and recalled that
one of them said the requested information could largely be produced with the press of a button.
Doc. 4–2 (Lutman Declaration dated March 24, 2014). Centura denied making such a
representation and asserted that the information requested in items 9 and 18(e) did not exist in
electronically searchable form and would require manual review of files relating to
approximately 15,500 employees. Doc. 13–3 (Declaration of Deana Hernandez, July 2014), doc.
13–4 (Declaration of Belinda Shaw, July 2014); doc. 13–5 (Declaration of Kimberly Kmentt,
Esq., Aug. 2016); doc. 17–1 (Supp. Declaration of K. Kmentt, dated Sep. 2016). On that record,
Judge Martínez ruled:
Centura claims it would take nine employee-years of work to comply. Centura
further claims that the cost of compliance would be $730,000. (ECF No. 13 at
13.) The EEOC, for its part, simply disbelieves Centura’s claims that the data
must be gathered by hand, as opposed to through an easily searchable database.
Plainly the parties are far apart on this issue. Moreover, the Court cannot
resolve it without making a credibility determination. Accordingly, the Court will
refer the dispute over subpoena items 9, 11(b), 12(b), 15(d), and 18(e) to the
Magistrate Judge for appropriate proceedings.
The Magistrate Judge shall
determine the likely burden on Centura to respond to those subpoena item s.
Referral Order at p. 5. Judge Martínez further instructed that if the undersigned “finds that
compliance would be unduly burdensome, the Magistrate Judge may, in his discretion, quash
certain subpoena items, modify them, direct the parties to confer on a more-limited scope, or
take any other action he deems appropriate.” Id. at p. 6.
Following the Referral Order, this court initially set a status conference for mid-October
2016. The parties requested additional time to allow for further conferral. The court has since
held several conferences with counsel. Doc. 27 (Dec. 5, 2016 conference); doc. 29 (Jan. 6, 2017
conference); doc. 34 (Feb. 7, 2017 motion hearing); doc. 37 (April 27, 2017 conference); doc. 40
(May 8, 2017 conference); doc. 46 (June 29, 2017 conference). Information technology
representatives from both sides attended the February 7, 2017 hearing.
In conferrals leading up to the February 7 hearing, the EEOC proposed for Centura to
produce certain electronic data from which the EEOC would narrow the number of employees of
interest. Specifically, the EEOC selected files from Centura’s database referred to as “Lawson”1
that the EEOC believed likely to identify employees of interest for its investigation. The court
modified that proposal to limit the data to the facilities identified in the Subpoena and ordered
Centura to produce the data by February 28, 2017. Doc. 34. Centura apparently produced the
data as ordered. The EEOC then had until March 31, 2017 to respond.
In a March 31, 2017 letter, the EEOC identified 1,277 employees of interest. Doc. 42–3.
The EEOC proposed that as to each of those 1,277 employees, Centura would produce (1)
specified contact information, (2) medical files, and (3) four categories of personnel documents:
(a) Return to Work/ADAAA Interactive Process/Dialogue Conference; (b) Request for Fitnessfor-Duty Evaluation and Notification to Associate of Fit-for-Duty Request; (c) “disciplinary
The EEOC identified the data more specifically in a January 4, 2017 letter to Centura which
does not appear to be in the record.
documents,” including but not limited to “Corrective Action Form;” and (d) separation or
termination letters, including but not limited to “Re-employment Eligibility Verification.” Id. at
p. 2. In the alternative, Centura could instead produce these employees’ entire medical and
personnel files. Id.
On April 14, 2017, after removing duplicates and a subset of employees based on further
information from Centura regarding the “Fit Test” category, the EEOC identified 880 employees
of interest. Doc. 42–4 (April 14, 2017 email from EEOC to Centura’s counsel, referred to
hereafter as the “April 14 Proposal”). The EEOC explained that the 880 employees consisted of:
14 employees who identified as disabled and received a disciplinary action or
were involuntarily terminated;
39 employees who requested a reasonable accommodation and received a
disciplinary action or were involuntarily terminated;
356 employees who took FMLA or non-FMLA leave and received a
disciplinary action or were involuntarily terminated; and,
471 employees who requested a reasonable ADA accommodation (this total
does not include the 39 employees above).
Id. An earlier email included in the same chain as the April 14 Proposal confirms that the EEOC
continued to request the same information and documents as identified in its March 31, 2017
In the next conference, Centura declined the April 14 Proposal and submitted a
declaration from Brian Aoyagi, manager of Centura’s human resources information systems and
analytics, estimating the burden that the proposal would impose. Doc. 44–12 (undated
declaration presented at April 27, 2017 conference). In the same conference, the EEOC also
clarified that it is pursuing only items 9 and 18(e). Doc. 47 (April 27, 2017 transcript) at pp.
44:10–45:19; see also Id. at p. 28:15–29:5 (expressly disclaiming pursuit of item 12(b)). Two
weeks later, the EEOC proposed to settle the dispute if Centura would produce “the
electronically recorded contact information for the  people… identified.” Doc. 48 (May 8,
2017 Transcript) at p. 13. Centura declined because in its view, the EEOC had recently
acknowledged that it does not seek this discovery for the individual charges but only for
investigating whether Centura engaged in a pattern or practice of discrimination. Doc. 48 (May
8, 2017 Transcript) at p. 15; Doc. 44–13 (Centura email dated May 2, 2017) at pp. 1–2. Centura
argued that pattern or practice discovery is impermissible because the EEOC has only issued
letters (see, e.g., doc. 2–13; doc. 2–19) expanding the investigation, not a formal charge thereof.
The parties being at an impasse, the court set a schedule for updated briefing. Doc. 40
(minutes of May 8, 2017). On May 31, 2017, the EEOC filed its brief and supporting
declarations. Doc. 42 (hereafter the “EEOC Brief”). On June 26, 2017, Centura responded.
Doc. 44 (hereafter the “Centura Brief”). The EEOC waived its right to reply, and both parties
waived oral argument. Doc. 46.
As a preliminary issue, consistent with the EEOC’s April 27, 2017 statement that it is
pursuing only items 9 and 18(e) of the Subpoena, neither party’s brief addresses items 11(b),
12(b) or 15(d). The court therefore considers items 11(b), 12(b) and 15(d) withdrawn. The court
will analyze items 9 and 18(e).
[A] district court should satisfy itself that the charge is valid and that the material
requested is “relevant” to the charge. … It should do so cognizant of the generous
construction that courts have given the term relevant[:] … virtually any material
that might cast light on the allegations against the employer. If the charge is
proper and the material requested is relevant, the district court should enforce the
subpoena unless the employer establishes that the subpoena is too indefinite, has
been issued for an illegitimate purpose, or is unduly burdensome.
McLane Co. v. EEOC, 137 S. Ct. 1159, 1165 (2017), as revised (Apr. 3, 2017) (internal
quotation marks omitted, quoting Univ. of Pa. v . EEOC, 493 U.S. 182, 191 (1990); EEOC v.
Shell Oil, 466 U.S. 54, 68–69 (1984)).
Assuming these elements are satisfied, the Court must enforce the subpoena
unless the respondent can demonstrate that it is unduly burdensome. EEOC v.
Citicorp Diners Club, Inc., 985 F.2d 1036, 1040 (10th Cir. 1993). In particular,
the respondent “must show that compliance would unduly disrupt and seriously
hinder normal operations of the business.” Id.
Referral Order at p. 2. “Alternatively, if the cost of gathering the information would be unduly
burdensome in the light of the company’s normal operating costs, the subpoena should not be
enforced.” EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck & Co., Civ. 10–288–WDM–KMT, 2010 WL 2692169, at
*5 (D. Colo. June 8, 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted), rec. adopted, 2010 WL 2692168
(D. Colo. July 6, 2010). Thus to avoid responding to a request in the Subpoena, Centura must
show that the EEOC’s requests would unduly disrupt or seriously hinder normal operations, or
that the costs of complying would be undue in light of Centura’s normal operating costs.
In addition, Centura points to the proportionality requirement of Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure 26. “[E]xcept as otherwise provided by statute … or by court order in the
proceedings,” the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure apply in actions to enforce administrative
subpoenas. Fed. R. Civ. P. 81(a)(5). Rule 26 requires discovery to be
proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at
stake in the action, the … parties’ resources, the importance of the discovery in
resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery
outweighs its likely benefit.
Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). The standard for enforcing EEOC subpoenas essentially already distills
the proportionality factors. In an administrative subpoena that meets the first three elements for
enforcement – it is within agency authority and relevant to the charges, and is not indefinite – the
issues at stake are matters of public interest and thus have high importance. See, e.g., EEOC v.
Konica Minolta Bus. Solutions U.S. Inc., 639 F.3d 366, 371 (7th Cir. 2011) (“There is a
presumption in favor of requiring an employer’s compliance with a subpoena when the
Commission inquires into legitimate matters of public interest”). Given the high importance of
the issues at stake, only an even higher level of undue burden (undue disruption, serious
hindrance of operations, or undue costs in light of usual operational costs) would cause the
EEOC’s discovery to be disproportional. See, e.g., Nat'l Labor Relations Bd. v. Jo-Dan
Madalisse Ltd, LLC, No. 15–MC–00228, 2015 WL 9302922, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 22, 2015)
(holding that “[w]ith respect to the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 proportionality factors
cited by Respondent, … although the amount in controversy in this case may be relatively low,
the requested materials are sought in order to resolve the key issue of whether Respondent and
McDonald’s are joint employers.”)
Items 9 and 18(e).
Item 9 regards all employees at several facilities who “requested an accommodation due
to a medical condition from August 1, 2009” to the present. Subpoena at p. 2 ¶ 9. The request
seeks detailed data regarding all such employees including contact information, identification,
supervisors, dates and results of requested accommodations, why accommodations were denied,
“copies of all accommodation documents,” if the employee was separated from employment then
data regarding the separation and copies of “all separation documents,” and if the employees
were disciplined, then data regarding the discipline and copies of “all disciplinary documents.”
Id. at pp. 2–3, ¶ 9(a)–(u).
Item 18(e) regards each employee at the identified facilities who “was identified as
disabled, temporarily or otherwise” at any time from August 1, 2009 to the present. Subpoena at
¶ 18(e). The request seeks detailed data including without limit, contact and identifying
information, the employee’s type of medical condition, whether the employee was separated
from employment or disciplined, and if so, information and documents regarding the discipline
or separation. Id. at ¶ 18(e)(1)–(16).
The EEOC argues that Centura has never shown that items 9 or 18(e) are unduly
burdensome, even when applied to all of the approximately 15,500 individuals who come within
the requests. The EEOC argues that the information from the Lawson database corroborates Mr.
Lutman’s recollection from his meeting with Centura representatives: that requested information
could largely be collected by electronic searches. Doc. 42 (EEOC Brief) at p. 11. Specifically,
the EEOC argues that each declaration that Centura provided regarding compliance with the
Subpoena is inaccurate.
Deana Hernandez’s declaration states in relevant part:
The only way to determine employees who requested or were placed on leave,
whether under the FMLA or otherwise, is to inspect each employees personnel
file for documentation of such a request. The same is true for identifying
individuals who had requested an accommodation for medical concerns, except
for the fact that that information would require review [sic] the additional review
of Occupational Health files.
Doc. 13–3 at ¶ 4. Ms. Hernandez further stated that identifying the reason for an employee’s
termination would likewise require a manual review. Id. at ¶ 5. The 2014 declaration of Belinda
Shaw, the Associate Chief Nursing Officer at Porter Adventist Hospital, made the same
assertion. See Doc. 13–4 (Shaw Declaration).2 Ms. Kmentt’s declaration states that:
Since July of 2010, issues relating to employee leaves of absence, which may be
related to an employee’s disability, temporary or otherwise, and which could
contain information regarding a potential leave as an accommodation, have been
handled by Matrix, an outside vendor who has been responsible for processing
FMLA, non-FMLA and short-term disability leaves of absence requests for
Centura facilities since that time.
There is not a searchable data base that records an employee's request for an
accommodation, that records temporary disability or that reliably captures
changes in the disability status beyond the time an employee may self-identify
that he or she has a disability at the time of hiring. The Lawson system has a
In addition, Ms. Shaw’s declaration states that she was the associate chief nursing officer at
Porter and does not indicate whether she had access to or familiarity with the Lawson database.
place to enter that status at the time of hiring, when the employee’s profile is
Doc. 13–5 (Kmentt Declaration) at ¶¶ 3, 6.
The EEOC asserts that the Hernandez, Shaw and Kmentt declarations are inaccurate and
thus not credible. Once the EEOC
examined Centura’s Lawson database it became clear that Centura electronically
recorded in Lawson not only which employees were placed on leave, but the
database also identified the type of leave requested. …. For example, Lawson
records nine types of leave such as, Leave-FMLA Medical, Leave-FMLA
Worker’s Comp or Leave-Non-FMLA Medical. The database also identified 514
individuals who requested a reasonable accommodation of medical leave.
Doc. 42 (EEOC Brief) at p. 11 (citing the Declaration of Dr. Michelle Barro at ¶¶ 4(B)(i),
(C)(i)).3 The EEOC further asserts that Lawson tracks both applicants and employees who were
identified as having a disability. Doc. 42–7 at ¶ 4(A)(i)–(iii). In her declaration, Dr. Barro
identifies the specific files and variables that contain this information. Lawson also tracks the
reasons for employees’ termination. Doc. 42 at p. 12 (citing Barro Declaration at ¶ 6). Centura
did not respond to the EEOC’s assertions of inaccuracies. Centura continues to rely on the
Kmentt declarations. Doc. 44 at p. 8.
Based on the foregoing, the court finds that Centura’s declarations (Kmentt, Hernandez
and Shaw) are incomplete or inaccurate regarding the burden of complying with item 9. The
EEOC has shown that contrary to the assertions in those declarations, Centura does electronically
track one type of request for accommodation due to medical conditions: requests for leave of
absence for medical reasons, at least when the request is granted. The term “requests for
Dr. Barro “earned a Ph.D. from Louisiana State University, Department of Agricultural
Economics, Baton Rouge, Louisiana,” is “a Social Science Research Analyst at the … EEOC,”
and has “six years of relevant experience in applied economics, statistics, and data analysis,”
including of “descriptions of employer Human Resource Information Systems (HRIS) such as
Lawson” and employers’ data submissions. Doc. 42–7 at p. 1 ¶ 1. Dr. Barro’s declaration
further specifies the files and variables in Lawson that track this information. Centura does not
challenge Dr. Barro’s qualifications or assertions.
accommodation due to medical conditions” is broader than what Centura tracks in Lawson (e.g.,
the EEOC does not mention that Lawson collects employee requests for leave due to medical
conditions that were denied, nor requests for other types of accommodation, such as
modifications of an employee’s workspace or equipment, or e.g., time to stretch as in one of the
charges). But Centura should have examined whether it could respond in part without undue
burden, and it did not do so.
The same is true as to item 18(e). Item 18(e) seeks broader information than what
Centura tracks in Lawson – according to Ms. Kmentt, the database does not necessarily record
when employees are identified as having a disability only after they are hired, or only
temporarily, and Dr. Barro’s declaration does not specifically address that fact. But Centura’s
declarations did not consider whether Lawson tracked any part of the information requested in
Despite being shown inaccurate at least in part by the Lawson data, the Kmentt
declarations are Centura’s only estimate of the time required to respond to items 9 and 18(e).
Ms. Kmentt bases her estimate on a sample of files, but does not explain the sample size or how
she selected the files. The court is left to wonder whether Ms. Kmentt’s estimate would apply to
the 880 identified files. In this regard, the declaration is conclusory and therefore insufficient.
See, e.g., Horizon Holdings, LLC v. Genmar Holdings, Inc., 209 F.R.D. 208, 213 (D. Kan. 2002)
(in order to justify an undue burden objection, the objecting party is obligated “to provide
sufficient detail and explanation about the nature of the burden in terms of time, money and
procedure required to produce the requested documents”); cf., Colo. Hosp. Serv., Inc. v. AutoOwners Ins. Co., No. 14–cv–01858–WJM–BNB, 2015 WL 4497437, at *3 (D. Colo. Jan. 28,
2015) (denying motion for protective order in part because affidavit did not provide “meaningful
explanation” of the movant’s objection to discovery request); Pub. Emps. for Envtl.
Responsibility v. U.S. Envtl. Prot. Agency, 978 F. Supp. 955, 961 (D. Colo. 1997) (conclusory
affidavit insufficient to show that defendant properly withheld documents from FOIA request).
The only supplemental evidence that Centura submitted after the Referral Order is Mr.
Aoyagi’s April 2017 declaration regarding compliance with the April 14 Proposal. Doc. 44–12.
Mr. Aoyagi’s declaration is likewise conclusory and unpersuasive. Mr. Aoyagi primarily
addresses the burden of collecting the documents requested in the April 14 Proposal, not the
burden to comply with item 9. He describes the locations and formats of the 880 employees’
medical and personnel files. Although one of those locations is with a third-party vendor
referred to as Matrix, all of the files are within Centura’s possession, custody or control. As to
the personnel files, Aoyagi asserts that 575 are in non-searchable electronic format; 238 are in
electronic format that have “at least been categorized,” and 57 are paper files stored off-site. Id.
For review time, he estimates respectively 3 hours, 1 hour, and 4 hours per file for those
categories. Mr. Aoyagi totals the review of personnel files at 2,231 hours. He then assumes that
the same amount of time (or more) will be required to review the medical files, assumes a per
hour cost of $30, arrives at a total cost of compliance of $135,000, and rounds up to $150,000.
But Mr. Aoyagi does not state why he assumes the non-searchable electronic files and
paper files cannot be converted by use of OCR (optical character recognition) software. Ediscovery vendors provide that service at prices that appear reasonable for responding to an
EEOC subpoena. Doc. 42–8 (Declaration of Rachel V. See, Esq.) at ¶¶ 7–11. Mr. Aoyagi also
does not explain how he arrived at his estimates of the time required to review the three file
formats; why he assumes a cost of $30 per hour; why he rounds up $15,000; or what effect that
cost would have on Centura’s operations. Again, conclusory assertions in declarations are not
sufficient to support an objection to discovery.
Even assuming that Mr. Aoyagi’s conclusory estimate of $135,000 were otherwise
acceptable, he attributes half of that cost to review of medical files. Items 9 and 18(e) do not
request such documents, and therefore to apply Mr. Aoyagi’s estimate to these requests, the court
would halve the total estimated cost (as to the 880 employees) to $67,500. Centura has not
shown how this amount (or even Mr. Aoyagi’s highest estimate of $150,000) would unduly
disrupt or significantly hinder its operations. $67,500 is also not an unduly burdensome expense
for a company of Centura’s size to respond to an EEOC investigatory subpoena. For instance,
over thirty years ago the Fourth Circuit held that $75,000 was not an undue burden for
complying with an EEOC subpoena. EEOC v. Md. Cup Corp., 785 F.2d 471, 479 (4th Cir.
1986). Centura points out that it is a nonprofit, but does not cite any authorities that draw a
distinction based on whether the employer is for-profit or nonprofit for purposes of EEOC
On the other hand, compliance with the full scope of items 9 and 18(e) would likely be
unduly burdensome. Other than the type(s) of accommodation tracked in Lawson (or other
searchable electronic sources), identification of employees who requested an accommodation or
were identified as having a disability only after hiring would require either the manual review
process that Ms. Kmentt described (individual review of approximately 15,500 personnel files)
or the scanning and OCR conversion of all of those files to permit electronic keyword searches.
Centura would then have to compile whether the employee’s requested accommodation was
granted or denied (and why), whether the employee was ever identified as having a disability,
whether they have been separated or disciplined (and if so, why); and all of their
accommodation, disciplinary and separation documents.
Expanding the universe for manual review back to 15,500 employees would ignore that
more than 14,000 of those files did not make the EEOC’s initial cut for likely responsiveness. In
these circumstances, even assuming that Ms. Kmentt overestimates the time required per file,
requiring Centura to conduct such a review would be undue. Requiring Centura to scan and
convert all documents in 15,500 files (either by purchasing OCR software itself or paying a
vendor) would likewise be an undue burden in these circumstances. The court therefore
modifies items 9 and 18(e) to require production only as to the 880 employees that the EEOC
identified in the April 14 Proposal.
Centura’s primary focus is not whether items 9 and 18(e) are unduly burdensome, but
whether those requests pertain to the individual charges. Centura argues that the EEOC has no
right to conduct discovery directed at whether Centura engaged in a pattern or practice of
discrimination as to other aggrieved persons, because it did not issue a formal pattern or practice
charge.4 Centura cites EEOC v. TriCore Reference Labs, 849 F.3d 929 (10th Cir. 2017) and
EEOC v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad, 669 F.3d 1154 (10th Cir. 2012).5
However, this court is limited to the referred issue of undue burden. Judge Martínez
found the disputed requests relevant because of the quantity and geographic distribution of the
The EEOC also issued a decision denying Centura’s request to revoke the Subpoena, in which
the EEOC gives more of its rationale for investigating a pattern or practice based on receiving
twelve individual charges. In re Tursi v. Centura Health Corp., Subpoena No. DE–015–002, slip
op., Doc. 2–52 at pp. 2, 8 (EEOC June 24, 2015).
Centura also argues that the individual charges have no common thread and otherwise cannot
support a pattern or practice investigation. Even if Judge Martinez had referred the issue of
relevance, Centura’s argument goes to the strength of the underlying charges, and “an
enforcement proceeding … [is not] an opportunity to test the strength of the underlying
complaint.” McLane, 137 S. Ct. at 1165.
individual charges, and therefore did not need to reach the question of whether the EEOC can
properly seek pattern or practice discovery in the Subpoena. Even construing the referred issue
more broadly as one of proportionality – and thus involving the relevance and importance of the
issues – items 9 and 18(e) seek information regarding other employees at the same facilities as
the individual charging parties, during largely the same time period in which the individual
charges alleged discrimination. How Centura treated other employees who requested
accommodations (or were identified as having a disability) at the same facilities is directly
relevant to whether Centura discriminated against the charging parties on the basis of disability.
See, e.g., EEOC v. Outback Steakhouse of FL, Inc., 251 F.R.D. 603, 612 (D. Colo. 2008) (“In
employment discrimination cases, ‘courts have generously construed the term ‘relevant’ and
have afforded [EEOC] access to virtually any material that might cast light on the allegations
against the employer,’” quoting EEOC v. Shell Oil Co., 466 U.S. 54, 68–69 (1984)). See also
Sears, 2010 WL 2692169, at *5 (holding same). The information requested in items 9 and 18(e)
would shed light on the several individual charges that allege failure to reasonably accommodate
Centura nonetheless interprets an EEOC conferral email as newly conceding that items 9
and 18(e) are relevant only to a pattern or practice investigation. Doc. 44 at p. 5 (citing doc. 44–
13 at pp. 2–3).6 Centura argues that this email was not before Judge Martínez when he found
these requests were relevant. However, Centura takes snippets out of context. The EEOC’s
email reads in relevant part:
As I previously explained, all eleven charges listed on the subpoena allege a
violation of the ADA. * * * The information sought in the subpoena is aimed at
determining Centura’s usual policies and procedures regarding the provision of
reasonable accommodation, including it’s [sic] usual efforts to engage in an
Given that the Referral Order restricts the court to the question of undue burden, the court
addresses this argument only because it is pertinent to Centura’s proportionality argument.
interactive process to determine accommodation. Specifically, we asked for
copies of Centura’s written policies …. [in items 4–7.]
Consistent with the subpoena, the data we now seek is an effort to identify
a group of people who are identified as disabled (Subpoena item 18e), or have
requested accommodation (Subpoena item 9), so that we may talk to some
representative group to gain an understanding of Centura’s practices and
procedures regarding the provision of reasonable accommodation, from the
employees' perspective. Judge Martinez has held this information is relevant to
investigation of the charges.
Doc. 44–13 (May 2, 2017 EEOC email to Centura) at p. 3 (emphasis added). Although the
EEOC’s email could have been more precise, it does not concede that items 9 and 18(e) are
relevant only to a pattern or practice. Rather, it appears the EEOC attempted to explain that
these requests regard the individual charges. Centura’s argument that items 9 and 18(e) pertain
only to impermissible class discovery is not persuasive.
Employees’ Privacy Interests.
Centura also argues that its non-charging employees have privacy interests in their
medical information that should preclude production of that information to the EEOC. Centura
appears to direct this argument only to employees’ medical files, as opposed to medical
information contained within the employees’ personnel files. Curiously, Centura does not cite
any legal authorities in support of its privacy argument. Although the court discussed some of
the law on this issue in conferences, this does not relieve Centura of its responsibility to brief the
law on which it relies. The court nonetheless addresses the privacy issue because as stated in
conferences, the court is concerned regarding the privacy of non-charging employees,
particularly as to their medical information.
The Constitutional right to privacy “protects the individual interest in avoiding disclosure
o[f] personal matters.” In re Dist. Court, City & Cty. of Denver, 09CV7235, 256 P.3d 687, 690–
91 (Colo. 2011) (internal quotation marks omitted, citing Martinelli v. Dist. Court, 612 P.2d
1083, 1091 (1980); Whalen v. Roe, 429 U.S. 589, 599 (1977)). “This right includes the power to
control what we shall reveal about our intimate selves, to whom, and for what purpose.” Id. The
Tenth Circuit and Colorado state courts recognize that among other things, medical information
and personnel files are confidential to the individual. See, e.g., Riggs v. City of Wichita, No. 09–
1105–EFM–KGG, 2011 WL 1527322, at *3 (D. Kan. Apr. 20, 2011) (“a person's medical
records are profoundly personal and private”). The Tenth Circuit recognizes “that the privacy
interest inherent in personal medical information can overcome the presumption of public
access” to court files. United States v. Dillard, 795 F.3d 1191, 1205–06 (10th Cir. 2015). See
also Russell v. Lanier, 404 F. App’x 288, 289 n. 2 (10th Cir. 2010) (recognizing the “sensitive
nature” of medical information and granting leave to file under seal); EEOC v. Assoc’d Dry
Goods Corp., 449 U.S. 590, 603 (1981) (charging parties’ personnel files shall not be disclosed
to the public, including other charging parties).
The EEOC argues that privacy is not a basis to deny the EEOC access to information,
citing Tricore, 849 F.3d at 943 and University of Pennsylvania, 110 S. Ct. 577. “Although the
text of the [Title VII] access provisions … provides no privilege [for peer review materials],
Congress did address situations in which an employer may have an interest in the confidentiality
of its records” by requiring those records to be maintained as confidential. Univ. of Penn, 493
U.S. at 192. Indeed, the EEOC notes that its representatives are subject to statutory
confidentiality requirements for information collected in an investigation. Doc. 42 (EEOC Brief)
at p. 22, n. 9 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 12117(a) and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-8(e)).
However, Tricore and University of Pennsylvania do not address an EEOC request for
non-charging employees’ medical information. Indeed, the court is not aware of a U.S. Supreme
Court or Tenth Circuit case that addresses the precise issue of whether non-charging employees’
privacy interests in their medical information should require the EEOC to make a heightened
showing of need, or require additional protection when such information is subpoenaed by the
EEOC. In McLane, the EEOC sought a list of employees who had been required to take a fitness
for duty exam after returning from medical or other leave, but it apparently did not seek
identification of those employees’ medical conditions or other medical information. In addition,
neither party appears to have argued the privacy issue; the issue on appeal was the standard of
review. McLane, 137 S. Ct. at 1165-66.
Some lower courts address EEOC subpoenas that seek medical information, but few
address the privacy issue. See, e.g., EEOC v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 859 F.3d 375, 379 (6th
Cir. 2017) (affirming district court’s enforcement of subpoena “for the databases that stored and
allegedly disclosed employee medical information” in violation of the ADA, neither side argued
that employees’ privacy interests required additional protection); EEOC v. Alliance Residential
Co., 866 F. Supp. 2d 636, 645-46 (W.D. Tex. 2011) (discussing cases regarding EEOC
subpoenas for sensitive private information, but none appear to address non-charging party
medical information); EEOC v. Original Honeybaked Ham Co. of Ga., No. 11–cv–02560–MSK–
MEH, 2012 WL 934312, at *2–3 (D. Colo. Mar. 19, 2012) (EEOC requested confidential
information that included medical information of other employees, but the parties stipulated to
protective order); EEOC v. Loyola Univ. Med. Ctr., 823 F. Supp. 2d 835, 839 (N.D. Ill. 2011)
(finding an EEOC subpoena seeking employees’ medical information was unenforceable as
insufficiently tailored, and implying but not reaching whether employees’ privacy interest in
medical information requires greater protection); EEOC v. Ala. Dep't of Youth Servs., No.
CIV.A. 2:05MC3256–MH, 2006 WL 1766785, at *2 (M.D. Ala. June 26, 2006) (noting that the
court “found no case involving an EEOC subpoena of confidential medical records”).
Much as other courts have concluded regarding other private information of a sensitive
nature, the court concludes that the sensitive nature of non-charging parties’ private medical
information is not a basis for an employer to withhold the information from the EEOC. See, e.g.,
EEOC v. Univ. of N.M., 504 F.2d 1296, 1303 (10th Cir. 1974) (personnel files of non-charging
faculty members); Alliance Residential, 866 F. Supp. 2d at 646 (compelling EEOC subpoena for
certain non-charging employees’ medical information); Original Honeybaked, 2012 WL 934312,
at *2–3 (employees’ medical information would be governed by stipulated protective order); St.
John Hosp., 2012 WL 3887626, at *10 (same, noting that a HIPAA regulation, 45 C.F.R. §
164.512(d)(1)(iv), permits such disclosure by a health care provider); District Court, 256 P.3d at
691 (compelling production of private information when “that disclosure is required to serve a
compelling state interest or … there is a compelling need for the information”).
However, because 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5 and § 2000e-8 do not require the EEOC to keep
materials obtained in investigation confidential from the charging parties, the court orders the
EEOC to not disclose the confidential or private information of non-charging employees
(including medical information, personnel files, and social security numbers) to the charging
parties. See, e.g., Alliance Residential, 866 F. Supp. 2d at 646 (compelling production of
employees’ medical information but noting that under Associated Dry Goods, the EEOC cannot
disclose that information to the charging party); EEOC v. St. John Hosp. & Med. Ctr., No.
CIV.A. 12–50225, 2012 WL 3887626, at *10 (E.D. Mich. June 1, 2012) (compelling employees’
medical information but requiring EEOC to not disclose to charging party), rec. adopted, No.
12–50225, 2012 WL 3888072 (E.D. Mich. Sept. 7, 2012); Alabama Dep’t of Youth Svcs., 2006
WL 1766785, at *2 (same).
The court further orders that to better ensure that confidentiality will be maintained,
Centura or the EEOC shall mark or entitle all documents (paper or electronic) that contain such
information as Confidential.7
In sum, the court modifies items 9 and 18(e) to require the following:
all information in Lawson (or other electronically searchable sources) that is
responsive to the detailed data requests in items 9(a)–(u) and 18(e)(1)–(16); and
as to the 880 employees that the EEOC identified on April 14, 2017, all
information and documents sought in items 9(a)–(u) and 18(e)(1)–(16) that are in
Centura’s possession, custody or control. This includes information and
documents (electronic, paper, or otherwise) in Centura’s systems and in the
systems of third party vendor(s) that Centura uses (or used), referred to as Matrix.
If Centura wishes to avoid the need for manual review of the 880 personnel files, it may
in the alternative (a) produce the 880 employees’ entire personnel files or (b) have the files
scanned and converted by OCR software to electronically searchable format. To the extent that
Centura has already produced the information or documents to the EEOC (in response to the
February 7, 2017 order or otherwise), it need not re-produce the same information or documents.
For clarity’s sake, the court notes that the only types of documents specified in items 9
and 18(e) (and thus compelled here) are accommodation, disciplinary and separation documents.
Items 9 and 18 do not request the medical files, entire personnel files, or documents regarding
Errors can and do happen in maintaining confidentiality. In this case, the individual charges
and Centura’s responses thereto (including in some instances documents from personnel files)
were filed as public. Perhaps there was and is good reason for those materials to be filed without
restriction. Other reported subpoena enforcement cases discuss information from individual
charges as public (see, e.g., McLane, 137 S. Ct. 1159; Alliance Residential, 866 F. Supp. 2d at
638 n. 2), and Centura has not sought to restrict access to the charges or its responses. But in
light of the statutes and cases cited above (and 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-5(b), providing that “[c]harges
shall not be made public by the Commission”), it is not apparent to the court whether the charges
and response materials were filed as public in error.
fitness for duty examinations (unless the specified forms otherwise are responsive as
accommodation, disciplinary or separation documents) that the EEOC requested in the April 14
Proposal. The Subpoena requests such documents only as to the charging parties. See Subpoena
(Doc. 2–49) at ¶¶ 2–3.8 Therefore, to the extent that the EEOC asks the court to compel
production of entire personnel files, medical files, or documents regarding fitness for duty
examinations as to non-charging parties under items 9 and 18(e), the motion is denied.
The EEOC’s Alternative Request to Compel the April 14 Proposal
As an alternative to compelling items 9 and 18(e), the EEOC seeks to compel the April
14 Proposal. This request is denied. Most of the information and documents sought in that
proposal are within items 9 and 18(e) as modified in this order. To the extent the April 14
Proposal seeks information or documents beyond what the court compels in the modified items 9
and 18(e), the request is denied. The court is unaware of any authority allowing it to expand the
Subpoena. Nothing in this order prevents the EEOC from issuing another subpoena to Centura.
The EEOC’s application to enforce the Subpoena is GRANTED IN PART as to items 9
and 18(e), consistent with this order. Centura shall produce the compelled information and
documents within 30 days of Judge Martínez’s ruling on any objections to this order, or if no
objections are filed, then within 30 days of the expiration of time for such objections.
DATED: September 1, 2017.
BY THE COURT:
s/Craig B. Shaffer
United States Magistrate Judge
The forms regarding fitness for duty examinations (see supra at p. 4) relate more closely to
item 11(b), which the EEOC has withdrawn. But even if the court were to consider that request,
it seeks only a list of employees from one facility, not a production of documents.
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