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Quinonez-Castellanos v. Performance Contractors, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division

August 9, 2017

ELVIRA QUINONEZ-CASTELLANOS, Plaintiff,
v.
PERFORMANCE CONTRACTORS, INC., and KENDEL WOOD, ANDREW MOREL, and JAMES EHLENBACH, Individually and in their Corporate Capacities, Defendants.

          ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO COMPEL

          C. J. Williams Chief United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter is before the Court pursuant to Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery. (Doc. 29).[1] The instant motion is timely. See LR 37(c) (“[M]otions to compel must be filed within 14 days after the discovery deadline.”). Plaintiff's motion was filed on June 8, 2017, which was prior to the June 26, 2017 discovery deadline. Defendants timely filed a resistance on June 22, 2017. (Doc. 30). See LR 7(e) (a resistance is due no later than fourteen days after service of the initial motion). Plaintiff timely filed a motion to file an overlength reply on June 29, 2017, and this Court granted leave to file said overlength brief. (Docs. 31, 34). See LR 7(g) (“[T]he moving party may, within 7 days after a resistance to a motion is served, file a reply brief.”). This Court heard oral argument upon Plaintiff's request on July 10, 2017. For the reasons set forth below, the Court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery.

         II. FACTUAL HISTORY

         The relevant facts of this case are as follows:

         Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint and Demand for Jury Trial on August 9, 2016, in the Northern District of Iowa alleging: (1) retaliation under Iowa law; (2) sex discrimination under Iowa law; (3) retaliation under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964; and (4) sex discrimination under the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.[2] There is no dispute that plaintiff was employed by defendant Performance Contractors from approximately May 2015 through October 2015. Plaintiff's employment was thereafter terminated; the cause of plaintiff's termination gave rise to the instant litigation.

         Performance Contractors is an industrial contractor employing approximately 8, 000 employees to perform construction, turnaround, and maintenance services at approximately 80 different worksites across the country. The number of employees located at each worksite varies, and each worksite may have its own management structure, depending on the number of employees located at that site. Plaintiff was hired to an unskilled position at a worksite in Sioux City, Iowa. Defendant Andrew Morel was the Field Human Resources Manager at the Sioux City jobsite and was thus responsible for handling human resources affairs, such as the one presented in the instant case, when they arose at the Sioux City jobsite. Defendants James Ehlenbach and Kendel Wood were plaintiff's supervisors; both parties agree that neither Ehlenbach nor Wood played a role in the decision to terminate plaintiff.

         Plaintiff alleges that she was discriminated against based on her Hispanic heritage and her sex-as a woman in a male-dominated industry-and faced direct retaliation when she submitted a formal written complaint to the human resources department detailing her allegations of discrimination. Specifically, plaintiff claims that she was initially subject to a three-day suspension for insubordination but, upon raising the issue of discrimination, plaintiff was summarily terminated from her employment with Performance Contractors by defendant Morel. In contrast, defendants contend that the sole reason for plaintiff's termination was insubordination. Following plaintiff's termination, the corporate human resources office based out of Baton Rouge, Louisiana launched an investigation into the situation and ultimately upheld plaintiff's termination. Plaintiff contends that this investigation amounts to part of the decision-making process to terminate plaintiff while defendants argue that the investigation simply constituted an internal appeals process.

         III. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The deadline for completion of discovery was June 26, 2017. (Doc. 27). A jury trial is scheduled for December 18, 2017, before the Honorable United States District Court Chief Judge Leonard T. Strand. (Doc. 18).

         In the instant motion, plaintiff seeks more complete responses to plaintiff's interrogatories and requests for production of documents served on defendants; an additional sixty days during which to depose additional witnesses whose identities become known as a result of the aforementioned discovery requests; and the imposition of sanctions on defendants. The discovery requests and materials exchanged in this case are expansive; the contested discovery matters are detailed below.

         IV. STANDARDS FOR MOTION TO COMPEL

         A. Meet-and-Confer

         A party moving to compel discovery “must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the person or party failing to make disclosure or discovery in an effort to obtain it without court action.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(1); see also LR 37(a). Alternatively, counsel may certify in a written declaration that such a personal conference was impossible “and describe the efforts undertaken to schedule the conference. An exchange of written communications or a single telephone message will not, by itself, satisfy the requirements of this [rule].” LR 37(a). The importance of the meet-and-confer requirement is not to be diminished. See Williams v. Cent. Transp. Int'l., Inc., No. 4:13-CV-2009 (CEJ), 2014 WL 6463306, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Nov. 17, 2014) (“The meet-and-confer requirement is ‘not an empty formality.'”).

         Plaintiff's counsel has attached to the instant motion the requisite declaration stating that plaintiff's counsel has met and conferred with defendants' counsel in good faith. (Doc. 28-13). Furthermore, the numerous exhibits attached by the parties evidence extensive communications between counsel, both via email and telephone. Therefore, the Court finds that plaintiff did, in good faith, engage in meaningful communication with defendant on the instant discovery issues prior to seeking court intervention. Thus, the meet-and-confer requirement is satisfied.

         B. Relevance and Proportionality

         Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provides:

Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: 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). Rule 26(b) is widely acknowledged as “liberal in scope and interpretation, extending to those matters which are relevant and reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Hofer v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 981 F.2d 377, 380 (8th Cir. 1992) (citation omitted). Additionally, in the context of discovery, the standard of relevance is “broader” than in the context of admissibility. (Id. (citing Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340 (1978))). Yet, “[s]ome threshold showing of relevance must be made before parties are ...


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