United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, Fort Wayne Division
JULIE C. SANCHEZ, Plaintiff,
CITY OF FORT WAYNE, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER
Collins United States Magistrate Judge
the Court is a motion filed on October 30, 2019, by pro
se Plaintiff seeking an order compelling Defendant to
respond to her discovery requests pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 37. (ECF 36). Defendant filed its response on
November 13, 2019 (ECF 39), to which Plaintiff filed a reply
on November 22, 2019 (ECF 41). The matter is thus ripe for
ruling. For the following reasons the Court DENIES
Plaintiff's motion in part and GRANTS it in part.
Factual and Procedural Background
who is an African American woman, initiated this case on
November 30, 2018, alleging that Defendant discriminated
against her because of her race and gender. (ECF 1). The
Court recognizes that there are disputes as to the facts
giving rise to this action. By way of background though,
Plaintiff's discrimination and retaliation claims arose
from her termination as Director of Citizen Service,
responsible for the City of Fort Wayne's 311 call center.
(ECF 20). More specifically, Plaintiff claims that while she
was manager of the 311 call center, Defendant mishandled an
internal investigation prompted by an anonymous employee
complaint made to the City Legal Department in 2016.
(Id.). Plaintiff additionally claims that she was
subsequently subject to a hostile work environment, treated
differently than similarly situated white managers, and after
additional employee complaints, improperly terminated in
August 2017. (Id.).
terms of the present discovery dispute, Plaintiff identifies
four separate categories of proposed discovery which she
seeks to compel. First, Plaintiff requests production of
“[a] copy of any and all discriminatory complaints
based upon race, complaints of harassment, and any complaints
of unfair mistreatment made against” Kurt Roberts,
Maggie Fiedler, Kelly Lumberg, and Brad Baumgartner. (ECF 27
at 8; ECF 28 at 2; ECF 36 at 2). Second, Plaintiff, by way of
an interrogatory, requests statistical data showing
“the number of Whites, African Americans, and nonblacks
and/ non whites [sic] working at the City of Fort Wayne in
the following years: 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017.” (ECF 31
at 2; ECF 36 at 3). Finally, Plaintiff requests
“metadata from ten days before and ten days after (and
including) July 26, 2017” from a copier located in the
call center (ECF 29 at 2) and “[a] copy of the
City's July 26, 2017 phone log with its subsequent
recorded calls” made by Plaintiff and various city
employees involved in Plaintiff's termination (ECF 30 at
2). (ECF 36 at 3). Defendant in response argues that: (1) the
requested documents regarding complaints against other
managers are irrelevant, or at least the requests are
overbroad; (2) the request regarding statistical data is
irrelevant; and (3) no material responsive to the copier and
phone records requests still exists. (ECF 39).
Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) permits discovery of
“any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any
party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of
the case . . . .” A party may file a motion to compel
under Rule 37 when the responding party is evasive or
provides incomplete disclosures or answers. Fed.R.Civ.P.
37(a)(1). The Court has “broad discretion in matters
relating to discovery.” Patterson v. Avery Dennison
Corp., 281 F.3d 676, 681 (7th Cir. 2002).
for purposes of discovery is construed broadly as “any
matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other
matters that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in
the case.” Chavez v. DaimlerChrysler Corp.,
206 F.R.D. 615, 619 (S.D. Ind. 2002). Moreover there
“is a strong public policy in favor of disclosure of
relevant materials . . . .” Patterson, 281
F.3d at 681 (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)). However,
“relevance alone does not translate into automatic
discoverability . . . . [a]n assessment of proportionality is
essential.” Motorola Sols., Inc. v. Hytera
Commc'ns Corp., 365 F.Supp.3d 916, 924 (N.D. Ill.
2019). Rule 26(b)(1) instructs the Court to determine
proportionality, “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.”
moving party generally bears the burden of proving that the
discovery it is seeking is relevant to the case and
proportional to the needs of the party. See
Motorola, 365 F.Supp. at 924 n.6; United States v.
Lake Cty. Bd. of Comm'rs, No. 2:04 CV 415, 2006 WL
978882, at *1 (N.D. Ind. Apr. 7, 2006) (citations omitted).
“The party opposing discovery has the burden of proving
that the requested discovery should be disallowed.”
Bd. of Trs. of the Univ. of Illinois v. Micron
Tech., Inc., No. 2:11-cv-02288-SLD-JEH, 2016 WL
4132182, at *3 (C.D. Ill. Aug. 3, 2016) (collecting cases).
In ruling on a motion to compel, the Court considers the
relevance of the discovery subject to the motion, and whether
ordering the disclosure of the requested material would cause
undue burden to the opposing party under Rule 26(b)(2)(B) or
be otherwise disproportionate under Rule 26(b)(1). See,
e.g., Motorola, 365 F.Supp. at 924; Nucap Indus.
Inc. v. Robert Bosch LLC, No. 15 CV 2207, 2017 WL
6059770, at *2 (N.D. Ill.Dec. 7, 2017) (citing
Patterson, 281 F.3d at 681); Berning v. UAW
Local 209, 242 F.R.D. 510, 514 (N.D. Ind. 2007).
Complaints Against Other City Employees
Plaintiff's request for copies of “any and all
discriminatory complaints” made against Kurt Roberts,
Maggie Fiedler, Kelly Lumberg, and Brad Baumgartner,
Defendant contends that such requests are overbroad as to
subject matter and time. (ECF 39 at 6-8). Regarding subject
matter, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's request
“could encompass an infinite range of complaints from
trivial to serious that may have nothing to do with the
discriminatory conduct [Plaintiff's] employees
raised.” (Id. at 7). As such, Defendant
contends that Plaintiff's request “represents a
fishing expedition designed to capture a far wider variety of
complaints [than those raised against Plaintiff, ] that would
make a meaningful comparison to the facts of her case
impossible.” (Id. (citing Johnson v.
Jung, Nos. 02 C 5221, 04 C 6158, 2007 WL 1752608, at *1
(N.D. Ill. June 14, 2007))). Plaintiff, in her reply,
contends the requested information would show that Defendant
treated her more harshly than similarly situated white
managers who had employee complaints raised against them.
(ECF 41 at 5-6).
initial matter, Defendant's reliance on Johnson
is misplaced. The plaintiff there- claiming she was
discriminated against on the basis of her race, ethnicity,
and natural origin- requested that the defendant
“identify all internal and external (EEOC's)
complaints but not limited to sexual harassment.” 2007
WL 1752608, at *1. While not clear from the opinion, the
plaintiff there appears to have been seeking evidence of
other complaints to show a pattern of discrimination by the
defendant. See Id. (citing Davis v. Precoat
Metals, No. 01 C 5689, 2002 WL 1759828 (N.D. Ill. July
29, 2002) (granting a motion to compel discovery into
discrimination complaints made by employees similarly
situated to the plaintiffs and on the same grounds as those
raised by the plaintiff)).
documents sought here, though, are not meant to show that
Defendant treated Plaintiff similarly to other female or
African American employees; but to show that she was treated
differently than white employees in similar circumstances.
Plaintiff's argument is essentially that the employee
complaints raised against her were a pretext. The true
reasons for her treatment and eventual termination, she
argues, were her race and gender. (ECF 41 at 6
(“Receiving examples of those complaints will further
prove that the Plaintiff was treated unfairly, and ultimately
terminated, solely because she was an African American
female.”); see also ECF 20 at 4). In such
cases, evidence of the treatment of similarly situated
employees is relevant to a Title VII claim. See Coleman
v. Donahoe, 667 F.3d 835, 853 (7th Cir. 2012)