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Burt v. Charter Communications, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

September 5, 2017

TANYA M. BURT, Plaintiff,



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion to Compel (ECF No. 17). The motion is fully briefed and ready for disposition.

         I. Background

         This case stems from the termination of Plaintiff s employment as a Human Resources Director for Defendant Charter Communications, Inc. ("Charter") in the Spectrum Reach Business Unit. (Compl. ¶¶ 5, 8, ECF No. 1) Plaintiff alleges that she submitted a leave request under the Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA"), 29 U.S.C. §§ 2601, et seq., to care for her cancer-stricken husband in the last weeks of his life. (Id. at ¶¶ 10-12) She submitted another FMLA leave request the following year after experiencing emotional difficulties. (Id. at ¶¶I9-20) Plaintiff alleges that when she returned from leave, her supervisor was hostile toward Plaintiff. (Id. at ¶¶ 14-17, 21-22) Plaintiff complained about this treatment but alleges that Defendant did not investigate the retaliation complaint or take any corrective action. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24) On January 13, 2016, Defendant terminated Plaintiffs employment, citing an investigation into complaints lodged against Plaintiff by her staff. (Id. at ¶ 25) Plaintiff asserts that she was never advised about performance problems or any investigation. (Id. at ¶ 27) She also claims that men in senior positions received complaints from co-workers, but Defendant took no corrective action, nor did it terminate their employment. (Id. at ¶¶ 29-32)

         On October 26, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint alleging discrimination and retaliation under the FMLA; discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101, et seq.; and discrimination under the Missouri Human Rights Act ("MHRA"), Mo. Rev. Stat. §§ 213.010, et seq. On July 10, 2017, Plaintiff filed a motion to compel Defendant's complete responses to Plaintiffs First Request for Production of Documents numbers 3, 7 through 9, 12 through 15, and 18, as well as answers to Interrogatory number 8. (ECF No. 17) Defendant opposes the motion, arguing that it has already produced a significant amount of documentation which disproves Plaintiffs claims and legal theories. In addition, Defendant contends that the remaining portions of the requested materials are irrelevant and undiscoverable.

         II. Legal Standard

         The scope of discovery for actions filed in federal court is set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26. That rule provides:

Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). "The rule vests the district court with discretion to limit discovery if it determines, inter alia, the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit." Roberts v. Shawnee Mission Ford, Inc., 352 F.3d 358, 361 (8th Cir. 2003) (citing Fed. R Civ. P. 26(b)(1)).

         HI. Discussion

         A. Personnel File of Lisa Rice

         Plaintiff seeks the personnel file for Plaintiffs supervisor, Lisa Rice. Specifically, Request for Production number 9 asks Defendant to "produce the following documents relating to Ms. Rice for the time period January 1, 2012 to January 1, 2017: complaints, emails or notes discussing those complaints, performance reviews, any investigation file documents, incident investigation reports, ethics points summaries, and investigation summary reports." (ECF No. 18) Defendant asserts that it has provided Plaintiff with eight pages of complaints and ethics points summaries, which represents the entirety of the relevant, non-privileged documents. Defendant contends that any documents pertaining to Ms. Rice's work performance, salary information, and other, private information in her file is not relevant to the present lawsuit. However, Plaintiff maintains that she is only seeking complaints regarding Ms. Rice in the form of emails or notes, or any performance reviews regarding Ms. Rice. Plaintiff claims that her request does not include salary information or other private information.

         The Court finds that information regarding complaints, performance reviews, or investigations of Ms. Rice is relevant to Plaintiffs claim because Ms. Rice supervised Plaintiff and recommended Plaintiffs termination.[1] Lyoch v. Anheuser-Busch Cos., Inc., 164 F.R.D. 62, 69 (E.D. Mo. 1995) (finding that information contained in the personnel file of plaintiff s supervisor "may be relevant to [p]laintiff s claim and is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence" in employment discrimination case); see also Moss v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Kansas, Inc., 241 F.R.D. 683, 698 (D. Kan. 2007) (finding personnel files of those plaintiff alleged were involved in the decision to terminate plaintiffs employment in an FMLA retaliation suit were relevant and discoverable). Thus, the Court will order Defendant to produce documents responsive to Plaintiffs request for production, including all complaints, emails or notes pertaining to those complaints, and performance evaluations pertaining to Ms. Rice. The Court notes that it previously entered a Consent Protective Order which should eliminate any privacy concerns. Lyoch, 164 F.R.D. at 69.

         B. Personnel Files of ...

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