Monday, October 16, 2006, 10/16/2006 07:55:00 AM

EEOC Playing Loose with Trade Secrets

One consistent theme in the cases we follow is the bad things that happen when your trade secrets wind up in the hands of the government. Another chapter in those annals can be found in Judge Leon's recent decision, Venetian Casino Resort v. EEOC, 2006 WL 2806568 (D.D.C. Sep. 29, 2006).

The case arose out of a mass hiring to staff up a new Las Vegas casino in 1999. That process resulted in a number of discrimination claims which were investigated by the EEOC. The plaintiff casino was concerned that its confidential and trade secrets information -- presumably including its employment policies and practices, although we're never told -- could be released by the EEOC to charging parties and others without a Freedom of Information Act request.

Plaintiff contended that the EEOC's practice violated FOIA, the federal Trade Secrets Act (see here for discussion of another case under that fairly obscure act), as well as Title VII, an executive order and the copyright act.

The court made short shrift of all those claims. The court found that an earlier (1981) Supreme Court ruling upholding the EEOC policy to permit disclosure to parties or witnesses. Specifically, regarding the Trade Secrets Act, the court held that it had to be narrowly construed and, in any event, created no private right for the plaintiff.

As usual, if your trade secrets end up in the hands of the government, they likely won't be trade secrets for too long.

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