A federal judge approved a subpoena this week allowing the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to proceed with its age discrimination investigation of staffing firm Aerotek, Inc. 

During the course of EEOC's investigation of Aerotek, the Commission found hundreds of age-based employee referral requests from Aerotek's clients all across the country.  

The EEOC's subpoena sought portions of Aerotek's employee referral database from the 62 Aerotek locations where the requests were documented.  

In response, Aerotek refused to provide the EEOC with names and contact information of its clients and employees. The EEOC asked the court to order the production of this information, and then a U.S. District Judge ruled in the EEOC's favor and ordered  Aerotek to comply fully with the federal agency.

The Judge stated, "It would seem to me that having been alerted to the fact that some of these clients engage in activities that on their face are age discriminatory, that Aerotek might have a responsibility for doing some better policing of its own clients before it takes them on in that regard." 

He also said the EEOC is responsible for ensuring there are no violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. And "based on what we have seen we know that there are sufficient number of their situations that deserve further inquiry."

Julianne Bowman, acting director of the EEOC's Chicago District Office, said, "Staffing agencies work hand-in-hand with their clients to hire, assign and place employees, and if discriminatory requests are made or honored, then both the staffing agency and the client are susceptible to EEOC investigation.  This is a very important ruling because staffing agencies, just like any other employer, have a duty to make employment decisions in a non-discriminatory manner.  Once the EEOC has identified a potential violation of the law, it has the authority to further investigate that issue to see if there are more violations at the company."

EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John Hendrickson added, "Just two years ago the Seventh Circuit ordered Aerotek to comply with an EEOC subpoena in a separate investigation. Apparently, Aerotek did not get the message, as it once again refused to comply fully with an EEOC subpoena.  Aerotek has spent years fighting the EEOC, and where has it gotten the company?  The same place it would have been had it not fought the agency.  Employers should take a lesson from this case - noncompliance with an EEOC subpoena doesn't pay."