December 5, 2007

COURT LIMITS EMPLOYER’S ATTEMPT TO PROBE ON MEDICAL, ARREST AND LITIGATION HISTORIES

by Patricia A. Schaeffer, Vice President-Regulatory Affairs

The EEOC has announced that a federal court in Rockford, Illinois, has issued an order largely denying an employer’s motion to compel discovery regarding medical and psychological records, arrest records and litigation history of claimants in a discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC.(EEOC v. Area Erectors, Inc., N.D. Ill. No. 07 C 2339).

The EEOC’s lawsuit against Area Erectors alleges the company discriminated against a class of African American employees by firing them and retaliated against a black employee who had sued another employer for race discrimination.

The company sought discovery of the claimants’ medical and psychological records for the past five years claiming the records were discoverable because the Plaintiff had made a claim for compensatory damages rooted in the emotional distress of the claimants. The company had also sought to discover the claimants’ arrest records and all litigation they had been involved in during the past five years. For various technical reasons, the federal judge in this case rule against the company on this motion.

The decision was hailed by John Hendrickson, EEOC’s regional attorney in Chicago, who said “it’s good to win this one and to see civil rights litigants protected from having their lives turned upside-down and unnecessarily subjected to the proverbial ‘third degree.’

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