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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Yellow Transportation

July 21, 2010

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, PLAINTIFF,
v.
YELLOW TRANSPORTATION, INC., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, AND YRC, INC, AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Susan E. Cox U.S. Magistrate Judge

District Judge James F. Holderman

Magistrate Judge Susan E. Cox

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") brought this civil rights case against Yellow Transportation, Inc. and YRC, Inc (collectively referred to as "defendants"). The EEOC alleges that defendants subjected a class of African-American employees to racial harassment and discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII").*fn1 Before the Court is the EEOC's motion to compel defendants to disclose a list of all African-American employees, with their last known addresses and phone numbers, employed at the facility where and when the alleged harassment and discrimination occurred. Defendants oppose this motion, arguing that it is not procedurally proper and that the list sought by the EEOC exceeds the scope of this case. Defendants also request that if the motion is granted, we narrow the list and put restrictions on the manner in which the EEOC may contact individuals on the list. For the following reasons, the EEOC's motion is granted [dkt. 30].

BACKGROUND

Defendant YRC was created when defendant Yellow Transportation and non-party Roadway, two truck transportation companies, merged operations. This case pertains to defendants' facility in Chicago Ridge, Illinois during the period of January 1, 2004 through the close of the Chicago Ridge facility, sometime in 2009.*fn2 That facility was operated by Yellow Transportation until approximately October 2008, when YRC assumed control of the facility.*fn3 The EEOC alleges that African-American employees at the facility were subjected to harassment and different terms and conditions of employment because of their race.*fn4 Specifically, the EEOC alleges that the employees were subjected "to a work environment with hangman's nooses, racially derogatory comments, racial epithets, and racist graffiti."*fn5 The EEOC further charges that these employees were given more difficult and time consuming work, subjected to more frequent and greater discipline, and scrutinized more intensely and held to more restrictive work rules.*fn6 All of this, it is alleged, while these employees received lower pay and/or less favorable job assignments.*fn7 The EEOC brings this suit on behalf of fourteen named employees and a class of unnamed African-American employees.*fn8

While all of the fourteen named employees were employed on the main dock or in the yard as a dockman, dock supervisor, spotter, or terminal janitor, the complaint does not limit the class to employees that worked these jobs. We note that while the word "class" is used, this is not a traditional class action brought under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Instead, the EEOC brings this action pursuant to its authority to proceed on behalf of a class provided under Section 706(f)(1) and (3) of Title VII.*fn9

DISCUSSION

The EEOC brings this motion seeking to compel defendants to produce a list of all African-American employees that worked at the Chicago Ridge facility from January 1, 2004, until the facility was closed, sometime in 2009. The EEOC argues that without such a list, it will be unable to identify all of its class members or potential witnesses. Defendants oppose this motion on two grounds. First, defendants argue this motion fails to comply with Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37 because the EEOC never formally requested the list from defendants. Second, defendants argue the list exceeds the scope of permissible discovery. In the alternative, defendants argue that if they are required to turn over such a list, it should be narrowed to the job functions of the fourteen named employees. Defendants also request that we prohibit the EEOC from contacting any individuals on the list until the EEOC and defendants are able to agree on a proper procedure.

A. EEOC's Motion to Compel

First, defendants argue that this motion is improper because the EEOC never formally requested the list it now seeks. Rule 37 permits a party to move the court for an order compelling production if:

(i) a deponent fails to answer a question asked under Rule 30 or 31; (ii) a corporation or other entity fails to make a designation under Rule 30(b)(6) or 31(a)(4); (iii) a party fails to answer an interrogatory submitted under Rule 33; or (iv) a party fails to respond that inspection will be permitted--or fails to permit inspection--as requested under Rule 34.*fn10

Defendants maintain that none of these situations are present because the EEOC never served the defendants with any of the four requests listed above. However, as the EEOC notes, this Court gave the EEOC leave to file this motion so that the Court could resolve the dispute, which was brought to the Court's attention at a status hearing concerning this case.*fn11 Furthermore, it was clear to the Court then, based on statements made in court, and now, based on defendants' response to this motion, that defendants do not wish to turn over the list requested. It would be a waste of time and resources to deny this motion only to have the EEOC re-file it once a formal request is made. This Court has broad discretion in discovery matters.*fn12 And we believe it best to resolve discovery disputes expeditiously. Therefore, the Court will not deny the EEOC's motion based on the formality raised by defendants, which ignores the context in which this dispute arose.

Second, defendants argue that the list requested by the EEOC exceeds the scope of discovery. Specifically, defendants argue that the EEOC has presented no evidence that the allegations in its complaint applies to a class of claimants as broad as all African-American employees at the facility. Defendants argue that the named claimants were limited to employees that worked on the main dock or in the yard as a dockman, dock supervisor, spotter, or terminal janitor. Defendants contend that a list of all employees at the facility, including those working administrative jobs, is over inclusive. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 provides that, "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense."*fn13 Relevant information is any information that "appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence."*fn14 For support of its position ...


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