United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL
JOHN C. COUGHENOUR, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (Dkt. No. 24). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court finds oral argument unnecessary and hereby GRANTS the Motion for the reasons explained herein.
Plaintiff Mindy Lauer alleges that her former employer, Defendant Longevity Medical Clinic, PLLC, its corporate affiliates, and Longevity's corporate officers retaliated against her for her support of another former employee in his employment discrimination suit. (Complaint, Dkt. No. 1 at 1.) Plaintiff, a former Medical Services Supervisor of Medical Assistants at Longevity's Kirkland clinic, further alleges that such retaliation, culminating in her termination, violated 42 U.S.C. § 1981, as well as the complementary provisions of the Washington Law Against Discrimination, RCW 49.60. ( Id. at 4.) The present action is for equitable relief and monetary damages. ( Id. at 10-11.)
According to Plaintiff's version of the events preceding her termination, Plaintiff's coworker, Dr. Lyndon Capon, made racist comments about Plaintiff's Iranian-born supervisor, Dr. Kambiz Yaraei. (Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, Dkt. No. 24 at 2.) Shortly after, Defendants fired Dr. Yaraei, replacing him with Dr. Capon. ( Id. ) Dr. Yaraei sued Defendants for racial discrimination, and Plaintiff provided Dr. Yaraei with a written statement of the racist comments she had heard Dr. Capon make. ( Id. ) After Plaintiff provided the statement, the case soon settled. ( Id. ) After the settlement, Seth Talbott (Longevity's CEO) and Michelle Olson (Ms. Lauer's supervisor) allegedly "berated" her for costing the company money. ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that Defendants continued to retaliate against her, with escalating intensity. For instance, Plaintiff alleges that Defendants "wrote her up" for rules infractions of which she claims innocence, while those truly guilty went unpunished. She also alleges that Defendants ultimately terminated her employment after she took a medical leave "to treat disabilities created by the stress of Defendants' retaliation." ( Id. ) Plaintiff alleges that other employees were also discriminated or retaliated against for opposing Defendants' alleged racism or for refusing to assist Defendants in their efforts to oust Plaintiff. ( Id. at 3.)
A jury trial has been set in this case for December of 2015. Now in the discovery phase, Plaintiff moves to compel the production of personnel files of several coworkers, which she claims will contain evidence of Defendants' pattern of discrimination and retaliation. ( Id. ) The subjects of Ms. Lauer's request are (1) alleged discriminators and the management who approved their actions, (2) others discriminated against based on race, disability, or opposition to discrimination (the "Protected Groups"), and (3) coworkers outside the Protected Groups who were treated better than Ms. Lauer. ( Id. at 1.) From the records of these persons, Plaintiff has requested that Defendants produce:
Records related to qualifications, including applications, resumes, cover letters, job history, licenses/degrees, etc.; Records related to job performance, including positive and negative reviews, customer and/or patient comments and complaints, commendations, etc.; Records related to job history, including pay, bonuses, benefits, raises, promotions, demotions, job descriptions, resignation/termination records, applications for promotions/transfers and the result of such applications, etc.; Records related to discipline, complaints made by or against the employees for any reason including discrimination, investigations into complaints, etc.; Medical records, requested leaves of absence, the grant/denial of any such requests, etc. (relevant given Ms. Lauer's disability discrimination claims); [and] Records reflecting employees' race, national origin, and disability-related status.
( Id. at 3-4.) In all, this request would entail the production of twenty-one personnel files in Defendants' possession, including nineteen files of people not parties to this suit.
Defendants have produced the personnel files of the named Defendants (Talbott and Olson), the personnel files of employees who Plaintiff claims have engaged in protected activity related to race or have opposed retaliation against her (Kambiz Yaraei, Lobat Kimiai, Chris Cano, Jason Foltz), and the personnel file of the one employee who Longevity considers a true "comparator" of Plaintiff (Bia Remen). (Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, Dkt. No. 28 at 1-2.) Defendants refuse to provide any other personnel files requested by Plaintiff because they claim that as the remaining employees are neither true comparators nor were alleged discriminators, such a production request is over broad, as well as intrusive, given the confidential personal information the records contain. (Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, Dkt. No. 28 at 4.) Defendants request that if Plaintiff's Motion to Compel is not denied outright, that they be permitted to provide the documents to the Court first for in camera review, to determine relevance. (Defendants' Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel, Dkt. No. 28 at 12.)
The parties have already submitted, and the Court has approved, a stipulated Protective Order (Dkt. No. 22), which declares that "records reflecting medical conditions or treatments of any current or former employees of defendant, including plaintiff; the personnel records of Plaintiff and of persons not party to this lawsuit; financial and proprietary documents of defendant, and financial and proprietary documents of plaintiff not in the public domain or subject to public disclosure; and investigation files into situations involving employees or former employees of defendant" are confidential and shall not be released to the public. ( Id. at 2.)
A. Legal Standard and Defendants' Burden
According to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26,
Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged 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 and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be ...