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Are Sanctions Proper in EEOC Sexual Harassment Case?

Posted on April 3rd, 2013

EEOC v. The Original Honeybaked Ham Company of Georgia, No. 11-cv-02560-MSK-MEH (D.Co. Feb. 27, 2013) is an ongoing case that we blogged about last year. In the prior interlocutory order, the court granted broad access to class members’ social media accounts (subject to a protective order and an in camera review).

After that order was entered, the parties continued to grapple with discovery compliance. Upon defendant’s Motion for Sanctions against the EEOC, the court noted that the EEOC caused several delays and unnecessary expenses, including:

  • Making premature promises about agreed orders regarding discovery without proper authority;
  • Wanting to use its own technology personnel for forensic discovery, which was memorialized in an order, then reneging on that representation; and
  • Changing its position regarding an agreement on questionnaires sent to the claimants, asserting that the “higher ups” at the EEOC disagreed with the EEOC trial lawyers on the case.

The court considered a motion by defendant Honeybaked that the EEOC has responded to electronic discovery requests in bad faith and considered whether sanctions were appropriate. In this case, the court seems to have some sympathy for the EEOC and the claimants. This may be because the court recognized the trial lawyers were working hard on this case, and that the “higher ups” at the EEOC were putting them in a bad spot.

Still, the court viewed the EEOC as causing unnecessary delay and expense. But what sanctions might be appropriate? Does this rise to the level of bad faith? If the EEOC did not really violate an order of court, under what rule of civil procedure or case law could the court order sanctions? More on this case, discussed in our next blog.

ILS – Plaintiff eDiscovery Experts

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