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Brown v. Erie County

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 21, 2015

DONNAMARIA BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIE COUNTY, et al., Defendants.

DECISION AND ORDER

H. KENNETH SCHROEDER, Jr., Magistrate Judge.

This case was referred to the undersigned by the Hon. Richard J. Arcara, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), for all pretrial matters and to hear and report upon dispositive motions. Dkt. #17.

By Decision and Order entered March 8, 2013, Judge Arcara granted, in part, defendant's motion to dismiss, allowing plaintiff's claim of retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. ("Title VII"), to proceed. Dkt. #16.

The complaint alleges that on February 22, 2008, plaintiff, an African American woman employed as a licensed practicing nurse at the Erie County Holding Center, complained of discrimination and harassment by Erie County Undersheriff Brian Doyle and Nursing Supervisor Cecilia Kohlmeier at the Erie County Holding Center, after they allegedly berated plaintiff and a coworker regarding false allegations of fighting, unprofessional conduct and numerous mistakes in their work and Ms. Kohlmeier accused plaintiff of playing the race card. Dkt. #1. On June 10, 2008, the Professional Standards Division found it more likely than not that a violation of the Erie County Sheriff's Office Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Discrimination and Retaliation did occur. Dkt. #1 & Dkt. #1-1, p.6. On June 18, 2008, plaintiff was questioned about an incident on April 8, 2008 in which a coworker's personal jar of Vaseline was contaminated with rubbing alcohol. Dkt. #1. On July 25, 2008, following a disciplinary hearing, plaintiff was terminated for her involvement in the April 8th incident. Dkt. #1. Plaintiff alleges that the accusations regarding the April 8th incident were in retaliation for her February 22, 2008 complaint of discrimination. Dkt. #1.

Currently before the Court is the following discovery dispute.

Allegations of Retaliation by Other Employees

Plaintiff's Document Demand No. 2 seeks "[a]ny and all documents relating to any employee of defendant who worked at the Holding Center who was discharged, disciplined, or moved to another job assignment, other than promotion, for any reason within six months after that employee filed any type of complaint about discrimination." Plaintiff's Interrogatory Demand No. 2 seeks the name, address, employment history, date of claim of retaliation, summary of the claim of retaliation, description of action taken with respect to the claim of retaliation and a copy of the complaint of discrimination. Plaintiff's Interrogatory Demand No. 3 seeks the name, address, race, employment history, date and nature of complaint and reason that any employee was discharged, disciplined or moved to another job assignment, other than a promotion, for any reason within six months after any complaint of discrimination.

Defendant objects to the document demand and interrogatories as overly broad, unduly burdensome and oppressive and seeking information that is not relevant or material and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.

Plaintiff argues that she is entitled to information relating to any other instances of possible retaliation that occurred at the Erie County Holding Center from January 2001 to the present because such information could identify potential comparators and establish motive and pretext.

The Court agrees that this discovery request is overly broad, unduly burdensome and unlikely to lead to the discovery of information relevant to plaintiff's claim of termination in retaliation for her complaint of discrimination. Accordingly, defendant's objections are sustained.

Investigative File re: Complaint of February 22, 2008

Plaintiff's Document Demand No. 6 seeks "[a]ny and all documents related to all investigations conducted as a result of plaintiff's claim or allegation of discrimination" dated February 22, 2008.

Defendant objects to the document demand as seeking information protected from discovery by the attorney-client privilege and protected as attorney work product or material prepared in anticipation of litigation. Defendant also objects on the ground that plaintiff's discrimination claim was dismissed from this action.

Plaintiff claims that the investigation of Undersheriff Doyle as part of her complaint of discrimination caused Undersheriff Doyle to terminate plaintiff and notes that there is no indication that the internal investigation by the ...


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