In what was a welcome decision for employers recently targeted by EEOC administrative subpoenas, on February 27, 2012, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit upheld a district court’s refusal to enforce what it deemed to be an “incredibly broad” administrative subpoena from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  The decision — EEOC v. Burlington N. Santa Fe Ry. Co., No. 11-1121 — resolved Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co.’s two-year battle with the agency over an administrative subpoena seeking nationwide recordkeeping data.  The EEOC’s administrative enforcement powers stem directly from the agency’s broad legislative mandate to investigate systemic discrimination, the frequency of which has increased in recent years.  But, the Tenth Circuit’s decision is good news for many employers.  Not only does its decision confirm that the EEOC’s subpoena and discovery authority is, in fact, limited, but it also prohibits the agency from initiating “pattern or practice” discovery that is irrelevant to its current charges.


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