Judge Chides EEOC For 'Raid' Complainant Lacked Basis For Alleged Grievances, Judge Says
Atlanta bureaucrats abused home nurse company, demanded thousands of documents in baseless claim
A federal magistrate judge has blasted the Atlanta office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying it abused its authority by pursuing a baseless claim against a small business that has spent more than $100,000 defending itself.
"The federal courts stand as a bulwark to protect this nation's citizens from powerful government agencies that seek to run roughshod over their rights," wrote Judge Walter Johnson of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. His Sept. 30 order refused to enforce an EEOC subpoena seeking thousands of employment documents from a Griffin home nurse provider.
The order said the agency conducted a "highly inappropriate search and seizure operation" against HomeNurse Inc., calling it a "raid." The order also said the EEOC demanded "access to documents already in its possession" for "an investigation where it had no aggrieved person."
"The by-product of all this obstinance is a small employer with a large attorney's fee bill and an unnecessary squabble in federal court," Johnson added.
The judge said attempting to comply with multiple subpoenas for records on 3,600 people who've worked for the agency has forced the company to have employees copying paper files and packing multiple boxes with records instead of running the business and providing care to clients.
Attorneys for the EEOC's Atlanta office couldn't be reached due to the partial government shutdown. Outgoing voice mail messages said their office is closed "due to the lapse in appropriations" and that they will return calls "when the government reopens." The attorneys of record for the EEOC are Robert Dawkins and Sairalina Montesino. Bernice Williams-Kimbrough is the district director of the Atlanta office.
HomeNurse's lawyer, David Long-Daniels of Greenberg Traurig, called the episode disturbing.
"The EEOC has a right to investigate a legitimate claim," he said. "But they can't act like 'Dirty Harry' and go intimidate people.
"They went to my client as if they had a gun and a badge, showed them the subpoena and started grabbing documents. They intimidated the staff. They made them think they had to respond, as if they had no rights. They violated their own regulations."
At issue was a claim filed by Christie Carroll in 2010. She asserted that HomeNurse discriminated based on race, age, disability and genetic information. She also said she was fired in retaliation for complaining that the company's pre-hire screening information gathering was discriminatory. She said that background checks for criminal convictions discriminated against African-Americans.