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United States v. Henry County

January 6, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: John A. Gorman United States Magistrate Judge


Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (#13). The motion is fully briefed and I have carefully considered the arguments of the parties. For the following reasons, the motion is granted in part, as stated herein.


Plaintiff brought this action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, alleging that Defendant did not take reasonable steps to prevent and correct workplace sexual harassment of one of its employees, Michele Baze, by her supervisor, Jack Anderson. Anderson was Baze's direct supervisor, and he reported directly to the Sheriff of Henry County, Gib Cady. The complaint alleges - and Defendant admits - that Baze made a complaint about Anderson's harassment to the County's Administrator and EEO Officer. Following an investigation, Anderson's employment was terminated.

According to the complaint, the statutory violation resulted from the fact that Henry County knew that Anderson had previously engaged in harassment of another female employee, Jennifer Richardson. Richardson, according to the complaint, had complained about the harassment to Lt. Jim Padilla, a senior investigator with the Henry County Sheriff's Department, and Steve Dooley, a Captain in the Sheriff's Department. Through those officers, the Sheriff became aware of the complaint. Despite that knowledge, no action was taken to discipline Anderson or to prevent further harassment of Richardson, who subsequently resigned due to the continuing harassment. Henry County's allowing Anderson to continue in his supervisory position, with no meaningful discipline or corrective action, is allegedly what allowed the later harassment of Baze to occur.

In the Answer filed in this case (Doc. #7), Defendant denies the allegations regarding the incident involving Richardson and raises an Ellerth/Faragher affirmative defense*fn1 as to the incident involving Baze. Its denial of the factual allegations relating to the first incident is based at least in part on its assertion that the Richardson incident was properly investigated and resolved by Lt. Padilla.*fn2

At issue in the pending motion to compel is request number 16 in Plaintiff's Second Request for Document Production. The parties have made a good faith but ultimately unsuccessful effort to resolve their dispute about whether this request is relevant and whether it falls within the proper scope of discovery. The Request reads:

Produce all investigative reports, memoranda or other similar documents written by Lt. Jim Padilla on behalf of Henry County Sheriff's Department and relating to investigations he conducted or supervised regarding allegations or instances of assault, sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse for the period of January 1, 2002 to the present.


The Federal Rules define the scope of discovery as "any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense -- including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things..." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). That Rule goes on to provide that "[r]elevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Id.

There are exceptions to the scope defined in Rule 26(b)(1). As pertinent to this discussion, discovery that may be allowable under that definition may be barred by the court if "the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii).

A party receiving a request for production of documents may raise objections to any part of a request. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b). Upon receipt of such objections, the requesting party may move for an order compelling disclosure. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iv).


Defendant first argues that Lt. Padilla's investigations into unrelated crimes would not lead to discovery of any relevant evidence. According to Defendant, the Ellerth/Faragher defense does not "contemplate an inquiry into the effectiveness of policy as applied to other employees;" it only requires the existence of a reasonable policy and a showing that "the individual plaintiff in the present case failed to follow its procedures." For that ...

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