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University of Pennsylvania v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

United States Supreme Court
493 U.S. 182 (1990)


Facts

In 1985, the University of Pennsylvania (the University) (defendant), a private university operating the Wharton School of Business, refused to give tenure to Rosalie Tung (plaintiff), an associate professor. Tung filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that she had been subject to sexual harassment, was equally qualified for tenure as her male peers, and had been denied tenure because the University did not want a Chinese American woman as a tenured professor. As part of an investigation into Tung’s complaint, the EEOC issued a subpoena to the University demanding files related to Tung’s peer review for tenure, as well as files related to the review of the other male candidates. The University asked the EEOC to exclude certain documents from the subpoena, including confidential letters, evaluations, and internal deliberations by the evaluators and department chair who had reviewed Tung and the other applicants. Even though the EEOC declined to exclude the items from the subpoena, the University refused to turn over the requested materials. The EEOC filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, seeking enforcement of the subpoena. The court granted an enforcement order, which was affirmed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on appeal. The University appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Blackmun, J.)

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