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Woods v. Von Maur

August 27, 2010


Name of Assigned Judge Virginia M. Kendall Sitting Judge if Other or Magistrate Judge than Assigned Judge Michael T. Mason


Plaintiff's motion to compel [12] is granted in part and denied in part. The parties are reminded of the District Court's fact discovery deadline of 9/30/2010. [11]. Defendant must produce all information and documents ordered in this ruling by 9/13/10. Status hearing set before Magistrate Judge Mason for 9/15/10 at 9:00 a.m. See below for further detail.

O[ For further details see text below.] Notices mailed by Judicial staff.


This is an employment discrimination and retaliation case. In her complaint, plaintiff states that she was a part-time sales associate at defendant Von Maur's Glenview location (the "Glenview store") from August 2003 until July 2008. Plaintiff claims that defendant discriminated against her and then, after she complained, fired her in retaliation. Specifically, plaintiff alleges that defendant refused to consider her for the position of buyer at the time she was hired, and a number of times thereafter because of her race. Defendant's position is that it terminated plaintiff for violations of defendant's price adjustment policy for employees. Plaintiff denies violating any of defendant's employee purchase policies, and also contends that white employees who violated those policies were not fired.

In her motion to compel, plaintiff requests that this Court order defendant to fully respond to Interrogatory Nos. 1, 5, 6, and 13 and Document Request Nos. 16, 19, 20, 24, 25, 26, and 27. Plaintiff also seeks an order requiring defendant to produce the supplemental materials it agreed to produce as a result of the parties' prior discussions. Plaintiff's discovery requests at issue can be broken into four categories: (1) production of information regarding employees of the Glenview store; (2) production of information and documents regarding employees who engaged in conduct similar to plaintiff's alleged conduct; (3) production of information and documents regarding other complaints of race discrimination and retaliation; and (4) production of personnel files. Plaintiff argues that defendant's refusal to produce the requested information unfairly limits her ability to prove her claims of differential treatment and pretext. In general, defendant argues that plaintiff's requests are irrelevant, overly broad and unduly burdensome. We review each category in turn.

I. Information regarding Employees of the Glenview Store

In Interrogatory No. 1, plaintiff seeks information regarding employees of the Glenview store.

Specifically, plaintiff asks defendant to identify all employees of the Glenview store and to provide their race, position, contact information, dates of employment, and reason for separation. Plaintiff seeks this information for those employed from 2003 through 2008, the time period of her employment with defendant. Plaintiff argues that this information should be produced because it is relevant to her claims, as it could lead to the identification of witnesses or similarly situated employees. She also requests this information to determine the racial make-up of the store during her employment, and to assist in determining whether African Americans were treated less favorably with respect to termination decisions.

Defendant objects to this interrogatory as irrelevant, immaterial, overly broad, unduly burdensome, and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. In its response, defendant states that it has already provided plaintiff with the names and contact information of witnesses that the defendant has determined have discoverable information in this case or are similarly situated. Defendant argues that the identities of other Glenview store employees, which would include employees who worked in different departments from plaintiff and years before the events leading up to plaintiff's discharge, are "completely irrelevant and are not necessary for plaintiff to determine witnesses." We disagree.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) provides for broad discovery: "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 the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." We find that the information sought in Interrogatory No. 1 is relevant to the claims and defenses in this case.

We also find that plaintiff's request is not overly broad as she has limited it to the years in which she was employed by defendant and to employees who worked at the Glenview store location. See Glover v. Bd. of Educ., No. 02 C 50143, 2004 WL 785270 at *3 (N.D. Ill. Apr. 9, 2004) (ordering defendant to produce information regarding the termination of other employees for five years prior to plaintiff's termination); Leibforth v. Belvidere Nat'l Bank, No. 99 C 50381, 2001 WL 649596 at *3 (N.D. Ill. June 8, 2001) (noting that plaintiffs generally are entitled to discovery extending back to five years preceding the alleged discriminatory conduct).

Next, defendant argues that responding to Interrogatory No. 1 would be unduly burdensome. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2)(C)(iii) allows a court to limit discovery that otherwise would be permissible under Rule 26(b)(1) after a showing that the burden or expense associated with producing the information outweighs the likely benefit to the requesting party in obtaining the discovery. Plaintiff argues, based on another case involving defendant, that the requested information would be "easily accessible." Defendant denies this assertion in its response and expounds on its burdensome objection by stating that responding to Interrogatory No. 1 "would require manually examining payroll records for each pay period and then reviewing each and every personnel file by hand." Defendant does not argue that it is unable to collect this information, but states that it would take "more than 260 hours of work to perform..." and would require a special computer program to be written by a Von Maur information technology employee. In addition, defendant argues that it would need to question store managers regarding each employee's race because it does not keep this information in its payroll computer system.

Defendant has failed to make any showing of burden or expense that persuades the Court to deprive plaintiff of the requested discovery. See Craig v. Exxon Corp., No. 97 C 8936, 1998 WL 850812 at *3 (N.D. Ill. Dec. 2, 1998) ("[t]he mere fact that an objecting party 'will be required to expend a considerable amount of time, effort, or expense in answering the interrogatories is not a sufficient reason to preclude discovery.'") (citing Schaap v. Executive Indus. Inc., 130 F.R.D. 384, 387 (N.D. Ill.1990)). Therefore, ...

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