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Court Orders Further Discovery Against Specific Employee In WrongFul Termination Dispute, But Denies Company Wide Discovery

Posted on August 24th, 2017

What is the scope and interpretation of discovery?In Quinonez-Castellanos v. Performance Contractors, Inc., Dist. Court, ND Iowa 2017, the Court considered Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Discovery, in a case involving charges that Defendants unlawfully terminated Plaintiff’s employment, in contravention of Iowa state and Federal statutory law regarding Civil Rights protection and sexual discrimination. Plaintiff was employed by Defendant Performance Contractors from approximately May 2015 through October 2015.

In the Motion, plaintiff sought numerous orders of relief from the Court: (1) that Defedants produce more complete responses to plaintiff’s interrogatories and requests for production of documents; (2) an additional sixty days during which to depose additional witnesses whose identities become known as a result of the additional requested discovery requests; (3) the imposition of monetary sanction against Defendant to be awarded to Plaintiff.

In examining the Plaintiff’s requests for relief, the Court examined the prequisites required under law from the moving party.  The party moving to compel discovery must include certification that she has, in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the party failing to make disclosure prior to seeking court intercession. The Court found that Plaintiff’s counsel attached to the Motion the requisite declaration stating that Paintiff’s counsel met and conferred with Deendants’ counsel in good faith. Therefore, the Court found that Plaintiff did, in good faith, engage in meaningful communication with Defendants on the discovery issues prior to seeking court intervention. Thus, the meet-and-confer requirement was satisfied.

With regard to Plaintiff’s request for more complete responses to discovery, the Court examined the scope required for discovery responses.  Discovery is liberal in scope and interpretation, including matters which are relevant and calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Evidence is relevant if: it tends to make a fact more or less probable than it would be without the evidence; and the fact is of consequence. The party requesting discovery has the burden of showing the requested discovery would be relevant; once that has been met, the burden of proving irrelevance shifts to the party resisting the motion to compel.

The Court stated that Plaintiff was entitled to discovery that would help her claims of discriminatory and retaliatory conduct by the specific individual Defendant who purportedly acted improperly. Plaintiff’s discovery also covered broad categories relating to occurrences throughout the company at all worksites and corporate offices across the country for a certain timeframe in order to establish a corporate pattern of retaliatory and discriminatory misconduct.

The Court found Plaintiff’s first type of requests to be reasonable under the established law. Plaintiff bears the burden of making a threshold showing that the requested discovery is relevant. Plaintiff has succeeded in doing so with respect to her requests for information about claims or complaints of race and/or national origin discrimination, sexual discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, or retaliation related to the specific individual who allegedly acted improperly in terminating her employment.

However, the Court ruled that Plaintiff failed to prove that the company-wide discovery would be relevant in this matter. One specific Defendant was the sole decision-maker in plaintiff’s termination. Because there has been no showing that any individual other than that Defendant was involved in the termination decision, it would be improper to order company-wide discovery. However, the Court did find Plaintiff was entitled to discovery materials at any location where that Defendant acted within the relevant timeframe and relevant subject matter.

The Court compelled Defedant Performance Contractors to provide discovery responses pertaining only to the single Defendant who was responsible for Plaintiff’s firing during the requested time period, at any jobsite, within the confines of claims, complaints, or investigations into claims or complaints of race and/or national origin discrimination, sexual discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, or retaliation.

The Court denied Plaintiff’s motion for sanctions request.

ILS–Plaintiff ESI Discovery Experts

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