United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee
A. VARLAN, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission's (“EEOC”) Objections
to Magistrate Judge's Memorandum and Opinion Issued March
27, 2017 [Doc. 14]. The EEOC filed these objections to United
States Magistrate Judge H. Bruce Guyton's Memorandum and
Order (“M&O”) [Doc. 10] denying its
Application for an Order To Show Cause Why an Administrative
Subpoena Should Not Be Enforced [Doc. 1]. Respondent filed a
response to the objections [Doc. 16]. For the reasons
contained herein, the Court will overrule the EEOC's
objections and accept the decision of Magistrate Judge
EEOC is currently investigating a charge of employment
discrimination filed by Christine Cordero against respondent
under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In the
course of its investigation, the EEOC issued a subpoena
seeking information and documents regarding employment data.
Respondent has refused to provide the requested information.
For purposes of the current matter, the following facts are
not in dispute.
September 25, 2014, Ms. Cordero was hired by respondent as a
crew member to work at one of its fast-food locations.
Approximately two weeks later, on October 11, 2014,
respondent offered to promote Ms. Cordero to crew leader. In
connection with the promotion, Ms. Cordero was asked to sign
a general release, waiving all claims that she may have had
against respondent up to the date of the release's
execution. For the past twenty years, respondent has required
employees to sign this release of all claims as a condition
of promotion. At the time Ms. Cordero was asked to sign the
release, she did not have any claims. She declined to sign
the release, however, because she felt that respondent was
discriminating against her by asking her to sign the waiver.
Consequently, respondent did not promote Ms. Cordero,
admittedly because of her refusal to sign the release.
Respondent gave her the twenty-five-cent pay raise, as well
as the same training, however, that accompanied the
Cordero continued to work for respondent, but she filed a
charge of discrimination with the EEOC on December 5, 2014.
In this charge, Ms. Cordero alleges that respondent
retaliated against her by failing to promote her due to her
refusal to sign the release. Ms. Cordero voluntarily resigned
from her position on April 20, 2015.
learned that respondent required its employees to sign a
release of claims as a condition of promotion, the EEOC sent
respondent a pre-subpoena letter on June 9, 2015, notifying
respondent of its intent to expand its investigation. In
addition, the letter requested various information about all
former and current employees who worked for respondent from
December 4, 2012, to present. On February 18, 2016, after not
receiving the information requested,  the EEOC issued a subpoena
that sought the same information identified in its
pre-subpoena letter. Specifically, the subpoena seeks the
identity and contact information of all: (1) current and
former employees since December 4, 2012, (2) current and
former employees who signed a release of claims since
December 4, 2012, and (3) current and former employees who
were promoted since December 4, 2012. It also seeks information
related to the employees' dates of hire, promotion,
advances, and termination, reasons for termination, and
current and former job titles. Moreover, the subpoena
requests copies of all releases respondent required its
employees to sign in order to receive a promotion and copies
of various documents relating to information about the system
or software components of respondent's Human Resource
continued to object to the subpoenaed information, prompting
the EEOC to file the instant application with the Court on
November 18, 2016. Respondent filed a response in opposition
on February 22, 2017.
M&O, Judge Guyton denied the EEOC's application,
finding that the EEOC has not met its burden in demonstrating
that the information sought is relevant to Ms. Cordero's
charge [Doc. 10 pp. 5-10]. The EEOC objects to the M&O on
substantive and procedural grounds. The Court will address
the EEOC's procedural objections first, and it will then
proceed to the EEOC's substantive arguments.
Standard of Review
preliminary point, the EEOC argues that Judge Guyton had
jurisdiction only to conduct the show-cause hearing and to
submit to the undersigned his proposed findings of fact and
recommendations, rather than issuing the M&O [Doc. 14 p.
6]. According to the EEOC, because the application to enforce
the administrative subpoena is typically treated as a
dispositive matter, Judge Guyton did not possess authority to
deny the EEOC's application and improperly disposed of
this action [Id.]. Thus, the EEOC argues that this
Court should treat the M&O as a recommendation, rather
than a final order, and conduct a de novo review
[Id.]. Respondent contends in opposition that this
argument by the EEOC is of no consequence [Doc. 16 p. 5]. It
submits that this procedural issue has no substantive bearing
on the weight of Judge Guyton's decision [Id.].
standard of review for a magistrate judge's ruling on a
non-dispositive pretrial matter is the “clearly
erroneous or contrary to law” standard. See 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). In certain
situations, however, where the decision will finalize the
district court proceeding, district courts have treated the
motion as dispositive, making the ruling subject to de
novo review. Luppino v. Mercedes-Benz Fin. Servs.
USA, LLC, No. 13-50212, 2013 WL 1844075, at *3 (E.D.
Mich. Apr. 11, 2013); see also Jackson v. Gogel, No.
15-35-DLB-JGW, 2015 WL 3452546, at *2 (E.D. Ky. May 29,
2015); EEOC v. Nestle Prepared Foods, No. 11-358,
2012 WL 1888130, at *4-5 (E.D. Ky. May 23, 2012); Ross v.
Pioneer Life Ins. Co., No. 07-MC-18, 2007 WL 4150957, at
*4 (N.D. Okla. 2007). In this case, considering that the
Court's ruling on this motion will terminate the
proceeding in this district, the Court finds that it is
appropriate to treat Magistrate Judge Guyton's M&O
[Doc. 10] as a report and recommendation. The Court notes,
however, that while it has elected to apply a more demanding
standard of review, it would have reached the same result
under the more deferential “clearly erroneous or
contrary to law” standard.
must conduct a de novo review of those portions of a
magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a
party objects unless the objections are frivolous,
conclusive, or general. See 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); Smith v. Detroit
Fed'n of Teachers, Local 231, 829 F.2d 1370, 1373
(6th Cir. 1987); Mira v. Marshall, 806 F.2d 636, 637
(6th Cir. 1986). “[A]bsent compelling reasons, ”
parties may not “raise at the district court stage new
arguments or issues that were not presented to the
magistrate.” Murr v. United States, 200 F.3d
895, 902 n.1 (6th Cir. 2000) (citing United States v.
Waters, 158 F.3d 933, 936 (6th Cir. 1998)); see also
Marshall v. Chater, 75 F.3d 1421, 1426-27 (10th Cir.
1996) (“[I]ssues raised for the first time in the
objections to magistrate judge's report and
recommendation are deemed waived.”). The Court
“may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part,
the findings or recommendations” made by the magistrate
judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).
The EEOC's Substantive Objections
M&O, Judge Guyton ruled that the EEOC has not
demonstrated the relevance of the subpoenaed information to
Ms. Cordero's claims [Doc. 10 p. 10]. “Give[n] the
Commission's lack of explanation as to how the
information would resolve the instant charge or is necessary
to determine whether [r]espondent has discriminated against
Ms. Cordero, ” wrote Judge Guyton, “granting the
Application would surely render the relevancy requirement
‘a nullity'” [Id.]. Thus, Judge