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DOE v. OBERWEIS DAIRY

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division


JANE DOE, Plaintiff,
v.
OBERWEIS DAIRY, Defendant.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: JOHN W. DARRAH, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Jane Doe, filed suit for sexual harassment under Title VII and state law claims for assault and battery, negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, and intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress against Defendant, Oberweis Dairy. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that she was subjected to sexual battery by one of her supervisors and that Defendant took no action to protect her and other teenagers working for Defendant from sexual harassment, despite a special duty to protect minor employees from harm. Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Compel.

BACKGROUND

  The facts, for the purposes of this motion, are as follows. Plaintiff, a female, was employed by Defendant from fall 2001 until September 4, 2002. During this relevant time period, Plaintiff was a minor. Plaintiff was employed at Defendant's Bartlett store and was trained at Defendant's Bloomingdale store. Defendant allegedly operates its business with stores that are primarily made up of teenage employees reporting to adult supervisors. During Plaintiff's employment with Defendant, she was allegedly subjected to ongoing sexual harassment by her shift supervisor, James Matthew Nayman. Nayman's behavior towards Plaintiff allegedly included sexual advances, comments about Plaintiff's appearance, hugging, kissing, and touching Plaintiff's buttocks. At one point, Plaintiff's mother allegedly spoke to one of Defendant's managers about Nayman's behavior. The manager allegedly indicated that Nayman had sexually harassed the manager and had been known to sexually harass and seduce Defendant's female employees. At least one of the employees was allegedly a minor. Plaintiff's mother also allegedly complained to the Defendant's Human Resources Department and a Vice-President about Nayman's behavior. Two other managers and other supervisors allegedly witnessed Nayman's sexual harassment of Plaintiff and the other females working at the store but took no action. Plaintiff allegedly made numerous complaints regarding Nayman's behavior as well.

  As a result of Nayman's actions, he pled guilty to Aggravated Criminal Sexual Abuse in Illinois State Court, pursuant to 720 ILCS 5/12-16(d). Defendant allegedly did not conduct sexual harassment training for its employees while Plaintiff was employed there. Moreover, Plaintiff alleges that she was never told to whom she could complain about sexual harassment or that she would be protected from retaliation if she complained.

  Plaintiff presently seeks a list of all of Defendant's Dairy Store employees from January 1, 2000 to the present, including their name, age, sex, date of hire, current status, and job title and history.*fn1 Thereafter, Defendant provided Plaintiff with a chart of all employees that worked at the Bartlett store from December 8, 2001 through November 1, 2002, containing the name, street address, phone number, gender, birth date, hire date, termination date, job title, and supervisor for every Bartlett store employee. Defendant provided a similar chart containing the name, street address, phone number, gender, hire date, termination date, job title, and supervisor for every Bloomingdale store employee.

  However, this information did not satisfy Plaintiff's request; and the parties met to discuss discovery related issues. After this meeting, Defendant provided Plaintiff with a chart that lists the names, genders, start dates, birth dates, termination dates, store locations, and home addresses for all 1,236 Dairy Store employees of Defendant between December 8, 2001 and November 1, 2002. Furthermore, this chart reflects the position history information for Bartlett and Bloomingdale store employees, which reflects changes that occurred in the employees' job titles during this time period.

  ANALYSIS

  "Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party. . . . Relevant information need not be admissible at trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed.R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). However, a discovery request can be limited if it is "unreasonably cumulative . . . [and] obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive." Patterson v. Avery Dennison Corp., 281 F.3d 676, 681 (7th Cir. 2002) (Patterson). In making this analysis, "the court should consider `the totality of the circumstances, weighing the value of the material sought against the burden of providing it,' and taking into account society's interest in furthering `the truthseeking function' in the particular case before the court." Patterson, 281 F.3d at 681 (quoting Rowlin v. Alabama, 200 F.R.D. 459, 461 (M.D. Ala. 2001)).

  Plaintiff contends the Defendant's previous submissions are unsatisfactory in three ways. First, Plaintiff wants the position history for all Dairy Store employees, not just the Bartlett and Bloomingdale stores where Plaintiff worked. Second, Plaintiff wants a detailed position history that indicates when a particular employee became a manager, an assistant manager, or a shift manager. Third, Plaintiff seeks these records from January 1, 2000 until the present, even though Plaintiff only worked for Defendant from fall 2001 until September 4, 2002.

  Plaintiff thus contends the information is relevant for two reasons. First, Plaintiff claims this information is relevant to her negligence and willful and wanton misconduct claims because under Illinois law, Defendant had a "special duty" to protect the teenage employees. See Kigin v. Woodmen of the World Ins. Co., 541 N.E.2d 735 (Ill. 1989); Plaston v. NSM, Am., Inc., 748 N.E.2d 1278 (Ill.App. Ct. 2001). Plaintiff argues that:

[w]ithout the requested information, Plaintiff cannot determine when (if ever) an individual was a non-supervisory employee and when they were a supervisor, and therefore cannot establish her claims that the hourly workforce was primarily made up of teenage employees reporting to older supervisors. Because Plaintiff's allegations regarding Defendant's negligence and its special duty involve the ages of all of its store employees prior to the Plaintiff's hire, providing position histories for only the Bartlett store during the period of time Plaintiff was employed is not sufficient. It is necessary for Plaintiff to have access to the positions and ages of all Oberweis dairy store [sic] employees for the period of time before and during Plaintiff's employment in order to establish Defendant's duty to exercise reasonable care.
Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, at 3-4 (emphasis included). Second, Plaintiff asserts that without this information, she is "unable to determine . . . whether a particular individual was a supervisor at the time they witnessed sexual harassment of the Plaintiff and other employees." Pl.'s Reply to Mot. to Compel, at 5.

  Defendant claims it is irrelevant and impracticable to give the position history of each employee, other than the position history for the Bartlett and Bloomingdale stores which Defendant has already provided. Defendant asserts this information is only maintained on written files located in the store where each employee works.

  Contrary to Plaintiff's contention, it is irrelevant to know exactly when an employee became a manager, an assistant manager, or a shift manager. If an employee held one of these supervisory positions during the relevant time period, Plaintiff has enough evidence of the ages of supervisors to establish her claim that the supervisor force was "older." Similarly, if an employee did not become a supervisor during this time period, Plaintiff has enough evidence of the age of the remainder of the hourly workers at the Dairy Stores.

  It is irrelevant and impracticable for Defendant to provide detailed position histories of each employee simply because Plaintiff would be unable to determine whether a particular individual was a supervisor at the time they witnessed sexual harassment of the Plaintiff and other employees. Plaintiff could make a much more limited discovery request regarding particular employees. Therefore, Defendant is ordered to provide the requested information about its Dairy Store employees by providing the names, street addresses, phone numbers, genders, birth dates, hire dates, termination dates, job titles, and supervisors. If Defendant is unable to use its electronic records to ascertain this information, it would not seem so burdensome to provide Plaintiff with this information by examining its personnel records. This information shall be provided to Plaintiff within fourteen days from the date of entry of this order.

  Plaintiff's Motion to Compel is granted in part and denied in part.


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