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JP Morgan Chase could not circumvent EEOC deposition request by claiming it had already shown that it did not engage in bias against women

JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA must designate one or more witnesses to testify to information that will permit the EEOC to explore an alleged disparity in assignment of mortgage consultant “skills” and the purported manipulation of the bank’s automated call distribution system in favor of male employees, a federal district court in Ohio has ruled (EEOC v JP Morgan Chase Bank, NA, March 30, 2011, King, N).

The ruling resolves a motion to compel filed by the EEOC in a case alleging that JP Morgan subjected female employees as a class to terms and conditions of employment different from those of similarly situated males. The bank’s call distribution system routed inbound calls according to an electronic code that grouped calls into different “skills” or “queues” identified by a three-digit number. According to the commission, the bank removed female employees from the call queue at its Polaris Park, Ohio, facility and directed lucrative calls to male employees.

During discovery, the EEOC served a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition notice for JP Morgan to designate and produce a witness or witnesses to testify concerning several topics. After the bank failed to fully comply and the parties were unable to resolve their differences, the commission sought judicial resolution. Among other things, the EEOC asked the court to compel JP Morgan to produce a witness or witnesses to testify regarding the identity, locations, and availability of documents that show the relative values to mortgage consultants of having one skill or another assigned to them; the agency sought to explore the alleged disparity in the assignment of mortgage consultant skills and the purported manipulation of the bank’s automated call distribution system in favor of male employees.

JP Morgan asserted that the information was irrelevant, that there was no disparity in skills as the EEOC claimed, and that other Rule 30(b)(6) testimony showed that the bank did not manipulate the call distribution system. The bank also offered the testimony of a new witness to support these contentions. The EEOC, however, pointed to testimony contradicting the testimony cited by the bank.

The court rejected JP Morgan’s assertions. The court noted that by contending the commission was not entitled to a Rule 30(b)(6) deposition because the bank had already established it did not manipulate the call distribution system to discriminate against women, the bank was essentially requesting that the court determine an ultimate issue, which was inappropriate at the discovery stage. Moreover, the bank’s claim that it had established that its call system did not discriminate did not foreclose the EEOC from the opportunity to conduct discovery on the issue.

The court also rejected the bank’s contention that the EEOC’s request was unduly burdensome because no one person possessed all the information specified in the topics listed in the Rule 30(b)(6) notice. The bank cited no authority for this contention, and the rule specifically contemplates that a party may be required to designate more than one witness in compliance with a request for deposition. Accordingly, the court granted the EEOC’s motion to compel with respect to information sought on these topics.

However, the court denied without prejudice other portions of the commission’s motion to compel that sought information not specified in its initial Rule 30(b)(6) notice, noting that the EEOC could amend its notice to include the additional information. The court also denied as moot that part of the motion reaching issues already resolved by the parties.

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