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United States v. Matheson Flight Extenders, Inc.

United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Seattle

May 2, 2019




         This matter comes before the Court on the parties' joint motion to compel (Dkt. No. 25) and Plaintiff's motion to amend the pretrial deadlines (Dkt. No. 32). Having thoroughly considered the parties' briefing and the relevant record, the Court hereby GRANTS the motions for the reasons explained herein.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Defendant Matheson Flight Extenders provides terminal and ground handling operations for air cargo carriers. (Dkt. No. 25 at 15.) After learning of Defendant's alleged disability and sex discrimination against Ambreada Richardson, a pregnant employee, Plaintiff State of Washington investigated Defendant. (Dkt. Nos. 1-2, 28 at 1.) Due to its investigation, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant engages in discriminatory practices because: (1) it fails to provide reasonable accommodations for its employees with injuries or disabling conditions that do not result from a workplace injury; and (2) fails to engage in the interactive process when determining if Defendant can reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities resulting from a workplace injury. (Id. at 2-3.) One example of this practice is how Defendant treated Ms. Richardson. (Id. at 3-4.) After Ms. Richardson discovered that she was pregnant, her physician advised her to work light or modified duty. (Id. at 4.) When Ms. Richardson informed her manager of this work restriction, her manager told her that Defendant offered modified duty for injuries that “occur on the job but typically not for pregnancies.” (Id.) Defendant then placed Ms. Richardson on an unpaid leave of absence and subsequently terminated her employment. (Id.) After investigating, Plaintiff filed suit alleging violations of the Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD), Wash. Rev. Code §§ 49.60.030(1)(a), 49.60.180.

         Thereafter, the parties began discovery, during which Plaintiff propounded a set of interrogatories and requests for production. Interrogatory 10 stated:

Identify the names, job titles, addresses, telephone numbers, and email contact information of all of Defendant's employees in the State of Washington who, during the relevant time period, have been provided with an accommodation for an injury or disability, including but not limited to the provision of light duty or application of weight-lifting restrictions.

(Dkt. No. 27 at 41.) Similarly, Request for Production 6 stated:

For all individuals identified in Your response to Interrogatory No. 10, produce all documents relied upon in responding to the Interrogatory or otherwise related to the provision of a reasonable accommodation to each employee, including but not limited to all records considered by You in determining to grant an accommodation, all documents related to any interactive process engaged in in determining if an accommodation would be provided to the employee, all records reflecting the period of time for which the employee was accommodated, and all payroll and time records for each employee during the period of accommodation.

(Id. at 49.)

         Ultimately, Defendant responded to Interrogatory 10 with 35 names of other employees and their contact information. (Id. at 42-47.) However, Defendant only provided a partial response to Request for Production 6-Defendant contended that it only would provide the documents that it relied upon in answering Interrogatory 10. (Id. at 49-50.) Interrogatory 10 is not at issue in this order; Plaintiff only moves the Court for a full response to Request for Production 6. (See generally id.)


         A. Motion to Compel Response to Request for Production 6

          Discovery motions are strongly disfavored. “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 . . . .” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). In addressing the proportionality of discovery, the Court considers “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.” Id. The Court has broad discretion to decide whether to compel discovery. Phillips ex rel. Estates of Byrd v. General Motors Corp., 307 F.3d 1206, 1211 (9th Cir. 2002).

         If a requested disclosure is not made, the requesting party may move for an order compelling such disclosure. Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1). “The party who resists discovery has the burden to show that discovery should not be allowed, and has the burden of clarifying, explaining, and supporting its objections.” Cable & Comput. Tech., Inc. v. Lockheed Saunders, Inc., 175 F.R.D. 646, 650 (C.D. Cal. 1997). This burden is a heavy one in employment discrimination lawsuits, where discovery rules are construed liberally so as to provide the plaintiff with “broad access to the employers' records.” Wards ...

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