compelling production of individual's personnel file in employment discrimination case where individual witnessed the events defendant claimed gave rise to plaintiff's terminationSummary of this case from Goracke v. Atchison Hosp. Ass'n
Civil Action Case No. 04-2440-KHV.
April 13, 2005
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (doc. 21). Plaintiff requests an order compelling Defendant to withdraw its objection and provide documents responsive to Plaintiff's Request for Production of Documents No. 17. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion to Compel is granted.
I. Background Information
This is an age discrimination case, filed pursuant to the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, ("ADEA"), 29 U.S.C. § 623(d), and 28 U.S.C. § 1337. Plaintiff contends that he was subjected to a hostile work environment because of his age and was terminated because of his age and in retaliation for his complaints about discriminatory comments based on age.
Plaintiff alleges that on March 6, 2004, the store manager informed him that he was fired for sleeping during the overnight shift on March 2, 2004. Plaintiff claims that after he urged the manager to check with another employee, Twila Meyers, who had worked with him that night, the manager changed the date he had been sleeping to March 4, 2004. Plaintiff then pointed out that he did not work March 4, 2004. Defendant later asserted in its position statement to the EEOC that the incident occurred during the overnight hours of March 6, 2004.
Plaintiff served his First Request for Production of Documents on November 18, 2004. Defendant served its Responses to Plaintiff's First Request for Production of Documents on December 21, 2004. After attempting to confer with Defendant to resolve the issue without court action, as required by Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(2)(A) and D. Kan. Rule 37.2, Plaintiff filed the instant motion to compel on January 21, 2005.
See Certificate of Service (doc. 8).
See Certificate of Service (doc. 17).
II. Discovery Request at Issue
A. Plaintiff's First Request for Production No. 17
Plaintiff's Request for Production No. 17 seeks "[a]ny and all records pertaining to defendant's demotion and the subsequent termination of Twila Meyers, including a complete copy of her personnel file." Defendant objects to this request on the grounds that it is neither relevant nor likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) governs the scope of discovery. It provides that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party, including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any books, documents, or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons having knowledge of any discoverable matter. . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence."
Relevancy is broadly construed, and a request for discovery should be considered relevant if there is "any possibility" that the information sought maybe relevant to the claim or defense of any party. When the discovery sought appears relevant, the party resisting the discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevance by demonstrating that the requested discovery(1) does not come within the scope of relevance as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure. Conversely, when the request is overly broad on its face or when relevancy is not readily apparent, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.
McCoy v. Whirlpool Corp., 214 F.R.D. 642, 643 (D. Kan. 2003).
Steil v. Humana Kansas City, Inc., 197 F.R.D. 442, 445 (D. Kan. 2000).
This Court has previously ruled on the discoverability of personnel files in civil rights cases arising under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 and employment cases arising under Title VII where discrimination is alleged. The Court has held that generally an individual's personnel file is relevant and/or reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, and therefore discoverable, if the individual is alleged to have engaged in the retaliation or discrimination at issue or to have played an important role in the decision or incident that gives rise to the lawsuit. In McCoo v. Denny's Inc., this Court held that the plaintiffs were entitled to discover the personnel files of those restaurant employees who allegedly participated in, were involved in, or witnessed any of the claimed discriminatory or other wrongful events giving rise to the lawsuit. Similarly, in Fox-Martin v. H.J. Heinz Operations, the Court compelled production of personnel files of employees who "either played important roles in the employment decisions affecting plaintiff or allegedly participated in or witnessed the hostile work environment and/or retaliation giving rise to [the] lawsuit."
See Van Deelen v. Shawnee Mission Sch. Dist. #512, No. Civ. A. 03-2018-CM, 2003 WL 22849185, at *2 (D. Kan. Nov. 24, 2003) (§ 1983 case in which court compelled production of personnel file of defendant employee who allegedly retaliated against plaintiff); Fox-Martin v. H.J. Heinz Operations, No. 02-4121-JAR, 2003 WL 23139105, at *1 (D. Kan. Dec. 19, 2003) (Title VII action in which court compelled production of personnel files of employees who either played important roles in the employment decisions or allegedly participated in or witnessed the hostile work environment); EEOC v. Kan. City S. Ry., No. 99-2512-GTV, 2000 WL 33675756, at *3 (D. Kan. Oct. 2, 2000) (Title VII action in which court compelled production of personnel file of supervisor who made decision to terminate plaintiff's employment); Beach v. City of Olathe, Kan., No. 99-2210-GTV, 2000 WL 960808, at *2-3 (D. Kan. Jul. 6, 2000) (§ 1983 case in which court compelled production of personnel file of police officer alleged to be the driving force behind retaliatory action); McCoo v. Denny's, Inc., 192 F.R.D. 675, 687-88 (D. Kan. 2000) (§ 1981 public accommodations case in which court compelled production of personnel files of employees alleged to have witnessed or participated in the claimed discrimination); Daneshvar v. Graphic Tech., Inc., No. 97-2304-JWL, 1998 WL 726091, at *5 (D. Kan. Oct. 9, 1998) (Title VII case in which court compelled production of personnel files of three "key witnesses" who "played important roles in the employment decisions affecting plaintiff").
192 F.R.D. 675, 688 (D. Kan. 2000).
2003 WL 23139105, at *2.
In this case, Plaintiff asserts that he is not seeking production of Ms. Meyer's personnel file solely because she is a witness. Rather, Plaintiff claims Ms. Meyers' personnel file is relevant because she has knowledge of the events which Defendant claims led to the Plaintiff's termination. Plaintiff further asserts that the personnel file would be relevant because Ms. Meyer, who is also over age 40, was terminated by the same store manager shortly after Plaintiff was fired under circumstances which suggest a pattern and practice of age discrimination, and that the reasons for termination were pretextual. Plaintiff argues that the personnel file of another employee, also in the protected class, who was fired within three months by the same store manager, may lead to other direct or circumstantial evidence of age discrimination.
Under the liberal standard for discovery in employment discrimination cases, the Court finds that Plaintiff has met his burden to show the relevancy of his request for Ms. Meyers' personnel file. Ms. Meyers' personnel file is relevant in that it may contain payroll and other records supporting or contradicting her claim that she worked the same night that the store manager claims Plaintiff was sleeping on the job. Moreover, Ms. Meyers' personnel file is relevant to show the particular circumstances surrounding her own termination shortly after Plaintiff was fired. This information may support Plaintiff's claims that Defendant's reasons for firing Plaintiff are pretextual, or demonstrate a pattern and practice of age discrimination by the store manager. Such evidence is relevant even in a case alleging only individual discrimination. The Court therefore finds that Ms. Meyers' personnel file is relevant to the claims and defenses of this case. Defendant's relevancy objection to Plaintiff's Request for Production No. 17 is therefore overruled. IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (doc. 21) is granted. Within ten (10) days of the date of this Order, Defendant shall produce documents responsive to Plaintiff's Request for Production No. 17.
See Owens v. Sprint/United Mgmt. Co., 221 F.R.D. 649, 653 (D. Kan. 2004) (information that may establish a pattern of discrimination is discoverable even when the action seeks only individual relief).
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the parties shall bear their own fees and expenses incurred in connection with this motion to compel.