UPS Must Turn Over ‘Relevant’ Medical Process Data to EEOC

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By Kevin McGowan

United Parcel Service Inc. must turn over to the EEOC information about how it stores and discloses its employees’ medical information, a federal appeals court ruled ( EEOC v. United Parcel Serv. , 2017 BL 195905, 6th Cir., No. 16-2132, 6/9/17 ).

The data would help to shed light on a pending EEOC charge in which a UPS employee alleges improper disclosure of his private health information in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit said June 9. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has a broad right to employer information that’s “relevant” to a bias charge filed with the agency, the court said.

The decision is a victory for the EEOC on access to employer information. The Sixth Circuit endorsed a “generous” reading of what information is “relevant” to a discrimination charge. It follows a recent Ninth Circuit ruling that said courts deciding if the information sought is relevant should interpret that term broadly in favor of the EEOC.

Employers challenging an EEOC subpoena must prove the information sought is irrelevant to the underlying charge or would be “unduly burdensome” to produce. The U.S. Supreme Court has said Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act gives the EEOC broad authority to obtain information that could “cast light” on a discrimination charge. The ADA adopted the procedures laid out in Title VII.

Attorneys representing UPS weren’t immediately available for comment June 9. The EEOC declined to comment.

Unlawful Disclosure Alleged

UPS operations manager Sinisa Matovski said the company posted his request for medical leave, along with a description of his condition and symptoms, on an intranet site visible to other employees. Other UPS workers also had their confidential medical data posted on the site, Matovski alleged. Matovski said that after he complained, UPS retaliated against him in violation of the ADA.

The EEOC in its investigation asked UPS to disclose how it generally handled employee medical data and decided what information was private and which could be posted. The company objected that parts of the EEOC information request weren’t relevant to Matovski’s charge and would be unduly burdensome to produce.

Information May Show Pattern

The company argued the EEOC could only see data related to Matovski and employees in substantially similar circumstances.

The EEOC’s authority to obtain information when investigating a charge isn’t so circumscribed, Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in an opinion joined by Judges Alan E. Norris and Jane Branstetter Stranch.

The ADA charge alleges “unlawful use of medical examinations and inquiries,” so information that might show UPS had a “pattern” of such unlawful use is relevant to the underlying charge, the court said.

Matovski’s charge directly implicates the databases that UPS uses to store and potentially disclose employee medical information, the court said. A district court therefore didn’t abuse its discretion in finding such reports are relevant to the EEOC’s investigation, the Sixth Circuit said.

EEOC attorneys in Washington represented the agency. Dykema Gossett PLLC represented UPS.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kevin McGowan in Washington at kmcgowan@bna.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Peggy Aulino at maulino@bna.com; Terence Hyland at thyland@bna.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bna.com

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