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State v. Horning Brothers, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Washington

May 14, 2018

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
HORNING BROTHERS, LLC, and HERMILO CRUZ, Defendants. and SOCORRO DIAZ SILVAS, ROXANA RODRIQUEZ, YESICA CABRERA NAVARRO, YASMIN CABRERA NAVARRO, and SAMANTHA MENDOZA, Plaintiffs-Intervenors,

          ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO COMPEL AND GRANTING PLAINTIFFS-INTERVENORS' MOTION FOR PROTECTIVE ORDER

          THOMAS O. RICE Chief United States District Judge

         BEFORE THE COURT are Defendant Horning Brothers, LLC's Motion to Compel Production of U-Visa Documents (ECF No. 35) and Plaintiffs-Intervenors' Motion for Protective Order Regarding Discovery of U Visa and Immigration Status Information (ECF No. 39). These matters were submitted for consideration without oral argument. The Court has reviewed the record and files herein, and is fully informed. For the reasons discussed below, Defendant's Motion to Compel Production of U-Visa Documents (ECF No. 35) is DENIED and Plaintiffs-Intervenors' Motion for Protective Order Regarding Discovery of U Visa and Immigration Status Information (ECF No. 39) is GRANTED.

         BACKGROUND

         On April 25, 2017, Plaintiff State of Washington filed this action against Defendants Horning Brothers, LLC and Hermilo Cruz for violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD). ECF No. 1. This action concerns allegations of discriminatory hiring and segregated employment practices because of sex, sexual harassment, retaliation, and aiding and abetting others in violation of the WLAD. Id. Plaintiff asserts these claims against Horning Brothers, which operates an onion packing shed in Quincy, Washington, and its supervisor, Mr. Cruz. Id. at 5. Plaintiff contends that Defendants employed a policy or practice of hiring only women to sort onions, limited women to certain positions, and discriminated against women on the basis of sex, including retaliation, quid pro quo sexual harassment, and/or severe, pervasive, and unwelcome sexual conduct that gave rise to a hostile work environment. Id. at 5-6.

         On June 15, 2017, the Court granted the Proposed Motion to Intervene for Plaintiffs-Intervenors who were employed by Horning Brothers, supervised by Mr. Cruz, and were allegedly subjected to sexual harassment, retaliation, and constructive discharge. ECF No. 10.

         On April 13, 2018, Defendant Horning Brothers filed a Motion to Compel, requesting this Court require the Plaintiffs-Intervenors to produce any U visa documents. ECF No. 35. Also on April 13, 2018, Plaintiffs-Intervenors filed a Motion for Protective Order to protect them from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, and undue burden resulting from inquiries into U visa and immigration status information. ECF No. 39. A U visa is a temporary nonimmigration status for immigrant victims who suffered substantial abuse as a result of criminal activity, possess information about that criminal activity, and have been helpful to the investigation or prosecution of that criminal activity. ECF Nos. 39 at 11; 35-1 at 2; 8 U.S.C. § 1101(a)(15)(U)(i).

         DISCUSSION

         I. Standard of Review

         Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), the scope of discovery is broad and includes “any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense ….” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Yet, the Court may, for good cause, issue an order limiting discovery to protect a party from “annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense ….” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). The burden is upon the party seeking the order to “show good cause” by demonstrating harm or prejudice that would result from the discovery. Rivera v. NIBCO, Inc., 364 F.3d 1057, 1064 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. Gen. Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1210 (9th Cir. 2002)). “If a court finds particularized harm will result from disclosure of information to the public, then it balances the public and private interests to decide whether a protective order is necessary.” Id. at 1063 (quoting Phillips, 307 F.3d at 1211).

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37, a party may move the Court for an order compelling disclosure or discovery responses. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). The motion must include certification that the moving party “in good faith conferred or attempted to confer” with opposing counsel in an effort to obtain discovery before resorting to court action. Id. As an initial matter, the Court finds that Defendant has met this obligation, certifying that it held a discovery conference on March 23, 2018 and the parties were unable to resolve the discovery issue. ECF No. 35 at 7.

         II. Disputed Declarations

         A. Ramirez Declaration

         Plaintiffs-Intervenors move this Court to strike or not consider the Supplemental Declaration of Maria Ramirez (ECF No. 38) because it was filed in violation of the parties Stipulated Confidentiality Agreement and Protective Order (ECF No. 29) and contains hearsay. ECF No. 42 at 6. Maria Ramirez was an employee of Defendants as a seasonal worker. ECF No. 38 at ¶ 3. Ms. Ramirez declares that she never experienced the sexual harassment allegations nor did she ever hear about such allegations when she worked in the onion shed. Id. Ms. Ramirez states that if she had suffered any sexual harassment, she would have no problem speaking to the owners. Id. at ¶ 4.

         The Court finds that Ms. Ramirez's declaration is rife with hearsay and should not be considered. Ms. Ramirez's allegations of rumors in the community, comments by Plaintiffs-Intervenors, and mental capacity of those Plaintiffs-Intervenors is merely hearsay and speculation. The Court is not persuaded by Ms. Ramirez and the Defendant's attempt to introduce hearsay testimony with serious accusations of mental health and attempted fraud without any factual substantiations. The Court also does not consider Ms. Ramirez's own experience that she did not suffer any alleged sexual harassment. Plaintiffs-Intervenors do not argue that all of ...


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