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Callais v. United Rentals North America, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Louisiana

December 11, 2018




         Before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for an Order Compelling Discovery (R. Doc. 23) filed on July 31, 2018. Defendant filed its Opposition (R. Doc. 25) on August 21, 2018. Plaintiff filed a Reply (R. Doc. 29) on August 27, 2018. Oral argument was held on November 27, 2018. (R. Doc. 35). A follow-up telephone status conference was held on December 4, 2018. (R. Doc. 36). Defendant filed a Supplemental Memorandum (R. Doc. 37) on December 7, 2018 at the direction of the Court.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff initiated this action with the filing of his Complaint (R. Doc. 1) on May 16, 2017. Plaintiff filed his Amended Complaint (R. Doc. 12) on September 17, 2017. As set forth in the pleadings, Plaintiff alleges that he began his employment with Defendant in September of 2013. (R. Doc. 12 at 1). He suffers from PTSD with sleep deprivation when overstressed, and arterial blockage in his legs, and Defendant subjected him to illegal discrimination, harassment, and retaliation as a result of his disability. (R. Doc. 12 at 1-2). Plaintiff's Amended Complaint chronicles various incidents of allegedly discriminatory treatment suffered by Plaintiff, culminating in claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Louisiana Employment Discrimination Law, the Civil Rights Act for Handicapped Persons, and Louisiana's Whistleblower Act. (R. Doc. 12 at 17-18).

         Defendant filed a Motion to Dismiss for Failure to State a Claim (R. Doc. 4) on July 19, 2017. On October 19, 2017, the district court issued its Ruling and Order (R. Doc. 18), granting in part and denying in part Defendant's Motion. As a result of the district court's Ruling and Order (R. Doc. 18), Plaintiff's claim for disability discrimination under the ADA and LEDL, his claim for failure to provide reasonable accommodations under the ADA and LEDL, and his claim for veteran discrimination under La. R.S. 23:331 remain.

         Plaintiff propounded his First Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents (R. Doc. 23-4) to Defendant on November 30, 2017, containing 104 requests for production of documents. On June 14, 2018 and June 18, 2018, Plaintiff propounded his second and third sets of Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents (R. Doc. 25-1 and 25-2), collectively containing an additional 20 requests for production of documents. Defendant responded and supplemented its responses on various dates, but Plaintiff contests the sufficiency of those responses.

         II. Law and Analysis

         A. Legal Standard

         “Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged 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 court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery if it determines that: “(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or (iii) the proposed discovery is outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C).

         A party must respond or object to a request for production within 30 days after service of the discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(2)(A). This default date may be modified by stipulation between the parties. Fed.R.Civ.P. 29(b). If a party fails to respond fully to discovery requests made pursuant to Rule 34 in the time allowed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the party seeking discovery may move to compel responses and for appropriate sanctions under Rule 37. An “evasive or incomplete disclosure, answer, or response must be treated as a failure to disclose, answer or respond.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(4).

         B. Analysis

         Plaintiff appears to be seeking to compel responses to Requests for Production of Documents Nos. 6, 11, 14, 15, 24, 25, 26, 31, 33, 34, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 48, 55, 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 64, 69, 94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 105, 108, 109, 110, 113, 116, 117, 118, 120, and 124, amounting to 40 of his 124 requests. After reviewing the substance of these requests, the briefing of the parties, and the arguments advanced at the November 27, 2018 hearing, the Court finds it appropriate to address Plaintiff's Motion by categories of information sought, as opposed to parsing the breadth and relevance of each individual request Plaintiff seeks to compel. To the extent the Court is ordering Defendant to produce additional responsive documentation in its possession, custody, or control, it shall do so in accordance with this Order.

         i. Personnel Files of Comparators (Safety Violations, Vacation Requests and Authorizations)

         Many of the Requests for Production seek information regarding alleged comparators or similarly situated employees.[1] This Court has generally found the production of entire personnel files unwarranted. See, e.g., Roberts v. Lessard, 2018 WL 1547342, at *4 (M.D. La. Mar. 29, 2018) (entire personnel file irrelevant because it “would contain materials outside of the scope of discovery.”); Braud v. Geo Heat Exchangers, L.L.C., 314 F.R.D. 386, 389-90 (M.D. La. Mar. 31, 2016) (finding “portions of the personnel file (minus confidential information)” relevant). This is, in part, because personnel files of non-party employees may contain sensitive information that has no relevance to the claims or defenses in the litigation, such as Social Security numbers and medical records or information, to name a few. Having said that, where a plaintiff alleges that he was treated differently that other employees, there may be some relevant information within the personnel files of comparators or similarly situated employees that would prove or disprove such an allegation.

         At oral argument, counsel for Plaintiff identified the following four employees as potentially similarly situated: Brian Vaughn, Jeff Fields, Rosie Jackson, and Robert Stone.[2] As to those purported comparators, Plaintiff has alleged that he was treated differently in several ways. First, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant treated the vehicle repair requests and exercise of stop work authority of Vaughn, Fields, Jackson, and Stone more favorably than the vehicle repair requests and exercise of stop work authority of Plaintiff. (R. Doc. 12 at ΒΆΒΆ 19, 20). To the extent the personnel files of Vaughn, Fields, Jackson, and Stone contain any information regarding vehicle repair requests or the exercise of stop work ...

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