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Szany v. Garcia

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Hammond Division

December 4, 2018

DENISE SZANY Plaintiff,
v.
JAIME GARCIA and CITY OF HAMMOND, Defendants.

          OPINION AND ORDER

          PAUL R. CHERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant City of Hammond's Motion for Protective Order [DE 77], filed on October 18, 2018. Plaintiff Denise Szany filed a response on October 28, 2018, and the City of Hammond (the “City”) filed a reply on November 5, 2018. For the reasons stated below, the Court takes the motion under advisement and orders the City to submit portions of the internal affairs file for in camera review.

         BACKGROUND

         In this action, Szany alleges that she and Garcia were both employees of the City and that Garcia physically attacked Szany on the City's property at their place of work. Szany also alleges that the City fosters a work environment in which misconduct toward women is tolerated and that the City has failed to prevent sex-based harassment and sexual harassment. In light of these allegations, Szany brings claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against the City and state law tort claims against Garcia.

         This litigation is currently in the discovery phase. Szany seeks discovery of the City's personnel and internal affairs files for Garcia. The City objects and has filed the Motion for Protective Order seeking (1) permission to redact certain information, (2) an order that it need not produce investigative and disciplinary information for matters other than the event giving rise to this litigation because those other matters are irrelevant and privileged, and (3) a protective order foreclosing disseminating investigative and disciplinary information to anyone outside of this litigation. The whole motion is taken under advisement, but this Order primarily addresses the City's request regarding the production of investigative and disciplinary information.

         ANALYSIS

         The City argues that Szany's request for Garcia's complete personnel and internal affairs files is overly broad and encompasses irrelevant, disproportional, and privileged information. The scope of discovery is set forth in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) and permits a party to seek information

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 issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

         The City argues that Szany's broad request for Garcia's entire personnel and internal affairs files is disproportionate to the needs of the case and requests irrelevant information. The City asserts that discovery of the internal affairs file should be limited to only “complaints against Corporal Garcia related to sexual harassment of co-workers in the workplace.” (Br. Supp. Mot. Prot. Order, 6, ECF No. 78). The City represents that Szany's complaint against Garcia is the only such complaint in Garcia's files. Szany, on the other hand, argues that “violence and interpersonal conflicts with other officers and citizens” are relevant to her claims. (Resp. 9, ECF No. 84).

         The City cites the case of Ripberger v. Corizon, Inc., No. 1:11-cv-01394-TWP-MJD, 2012 WL 4340716, *6 (S.D. Ind. Sept. 20, 2012). In Ripberger, the requesting party had agreed to limit her request to complaints of sex discrimination, age discrimination, or retaliation against the decision-maker who did not hire the requesting party. Though the requesting party sought complaints against the decision-maker's supervisor, the court ruled those complaints irrelevant.

         The City also presents Braud v. Geo Heat Exchangers, LLC., 314 F.R.D. 386 (M.D. La. 2016), as instructive. In Braud, production of the alleged bad actor's personnel file was limited to performance evaluations, complaints, disciplinary records, and job duties. However, the City maintains that fewer documents should be found relevant here because of factual dissimilarities.

         The Braud court cites McCoo v. Denny's Inc., 192 F.R.D. 675 (D. Kan. 2000), which held that if the employee whose personnel file is sought “is alleged to have engaged in the discrimination or harassment at issue or played an important role in the employment decision or incident that gives rise to the lawsuit, the personnel file will be considered relevant and/or reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, and therefore discoverable.” McCoo v. Denny's Inc., 192 F.R.D. 675, 687 (D. Kan. 2000).

         Szany states that the City's position is not meritorious, and she underscores that Garcia is not a comparator in this litigation but instead the alleged bad actor. Szany cites only an unpublished 1996 opinion from outside of this judicial circuit in support.

         The City has not argued that the personnel file is irrelevant, arguing only that portions of the internal affairs file are irrelevant. Accordingly, and in light of McCoo, the Court finds that the personnel file is relevant. Regarding the internal affairs file, the Court finds a middle path between the two extremes presented to it to be appropriate. Documents and information in the internal affairs file pertaining to any of the following are relevant and proportional to the needs of the case: complaints against or investigations of Garcia for sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, or sexually-motivated violence toward any person; complaints against or investigations of Garcia for violence toward coworkers; and complaints against or investigations of Garcia for ...


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