When the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment comes to the fore in a legal matter, it most typically pertains to state action by police or other enforcement bodies that is allegedly unlawful for constituting an unreasonable search and seizure in a criminal law context.
A recent case involving tech giant Google serves as a notable exception to that norm.
That case, which has received more than a modicum of public interest recently, especially among business owners across the country, “should provide a comfort level for contractors who may have been feeling bullied,” states the online employment law publication SHRM.
The named bully — the actor whose name is closely linked with allegations of constitutional violation — is the rather innocuous sounding Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The OFCCP has oversight over prospective and currently employed contracting companies doing work for the federal government.
Reportedly, the OFCCP hasn’t been acting in a particularly civil or reasonable way concerning its compliance-related demands — at least regarding Google, to whom it was making document production demands of pursuant to a government contract that had paid Google approximately $600,000.
What the federal office was demanding was production from the tech company that would have cost it at least $1 million in time and effort. Understandably, Google balked.
And, ultimately, its position in the regulatory compliance snafu with the OFCCP was endorsed by a federal administrative law judge, who stated in a recent ruling that federal contractors “need not be held hostage by unreasonable demands by the OFCCP.”
There was no question that the ALJ found the production demands by the government to be unreasonable in the extreme — even to a draconian degree. The judge stated that he might have entertained a different analysis had the contract with Google been worth $600 million rather than $600,000.
The bottom line issuing from the case result is certainly that, while government agencies have discretion to make demands of contractors, cited imperatives must be reasonable and closely relevant to the contract at hand.
They weren’t with Google. One commentator on the case says that contracting employers should now realize “that there is some precedent to push back.”