In EEOC v. Day & Zimmermann NPS, Inc., a federal court in Connecticut found that an employer that sent a letter to employees informing them they might be contacted by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) may be liable for unlawful retaliation. This unlikely scenario came about after the EEOC requested the last known telephone numbers and addresses of employees who may have information relevant to a former employee’s charge of disability discrimination. After providing the contact information to the EEOC, the employer sent a letter to over 100 employees which included: (1) the name of the Charging Party; (2) a brief description of the allegations against the company and a summary denial; (3) the employees’ right to decide whether they wished to speak with EEOC; (4) the name and contact number of the company’s attorneys should any employee wish to have them present for the interview; and (5) a description of the company’s anti-retaliation policy.
The Company described the letter as a “standard courtesy notice” designed to “minimize business disruption” and keep the employees informed. However, the charging party alleged that after the letter was sent, he was treated unfairly with respect to work referrals.
In determining that the letter may constitute unlawful retaliation, the Court found that the Company’s inclusion of Charging Party’s name, together with the description of sensitive facts concerning Charging Party’s requested accommodations, might have a reasonable tendency to coerce or intimidate the Charging Party and/or other employees from providing information to the EEOC.
This case demonstrates that employers should use caution when communicating with employees during the course of a government agency investigation. While such communications can serve important employee relations purposes, careful consideration should be given to the risks of sending the communication and, if so, the contents of such communication.