United States District Court, E.D. New York
Y. Shields United States Magistrate Judge
an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff, a 49-year-old
Asian woman, asserts claims under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983,
Title VII, and the New York Executive Law
(“NYEL”). Plaintiff claims she was subjected to
discrimination based on her age and national origin.
According to Plaintiff, the alleged discrimination culminated
with her unlawful termination on November 5, 2014.
See Amended Complaint (“Am. Compl.”),
Docket Entry (“DE”) 14. Plaintiff seeks actual,
compensatory, and punitive damages, including damages for
before the Court is Defendants’ letter motion seeking
to compel the disclosure of Plaintiff’s tax returns. DE
37. For the reasons set forth below, Defendants’ motion
is granted to the extent that Plaintiff must produce her
redacted tax returns. Plaintiff may redact all information
from her tax returns that does not relate to her income or
source of income.
Compelling Discovery of Plaintiff’s Joint Tax
“well-settled that tax returns in the possession of the
tax payer are not immune to civil discovery.”
Sabatelli v. Allied Interstate, Inc., 2006 WL
2620385, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. 2006) (internal quotation omitted).
Indeed, a court may exercise its discretion in ordering the
disclosure of such documents. S.E.C. v. Garber, 990
F. Supp. 2d 462, 465 (S.D.N.Y. 2014). However,
“[d]iscovery of tax returns requires satisfaction of a
higher standard than discovery of other documents.”
Trilegiant Corp. v. Sitel Corp., 272 F.R.D. 360, 368
(S.D.N.Y. 2010). Therefore, in civil cases a court will
compel disclosure of a party’s tax returns “only
upon a two-part showing: ‘(1) the returns must be
relevant to the subject matter of the action and (2) there
must be a compelling need for the returns because the
information is not otherwise readily
obtainable.’” Garcia v. Benjamin Grp.
Enters., Inc., 2010 WL 2076093, at *1 (E.D.N.Y. 2010)
(quoting Carmody v. Vill. of Rockville Centre, 2007
WL 2042807, at *2 (E.D.N.Y. 2007)); see also Denim Habit,
LLC v. NJC Boston, LLC, 2016 WL 2992124, at *5 (E.D.N.Y.
assert, and Plaintiff does not dispute, that
Plaintiff’s tax returns are relevant as to the issues
of lost wages. The parties’ dispute is limited to the
issue of whether there exists a compelling need for the tax
returns on the ground that the information is “not
otherwise readily obtainable.” Plaintiff claims to have
earned no income after the termination of her employment. She
has offered no evidence to support her claim other than her
sworn testimony, and an offer to produce additional
statements upon Defendants’ request.
take the position that because Plaintiff has produced no
evidence other than her unsubstantiated testimony, her tax
returns must be disclosed because the information is not
“otherwise readily obtainable.” Defendants’
Memorandum (“Def. Mem.”), DE 37. Defendants
therefore argue that Plaintiff’s tax returns are
necessary to confirm that Plaintiff’s claim that she
has not earned income from any employer since she left
Defendant Stony Brook’s employ, and that she has not
earned any income as a self-employed business owner.
Defendants’ Reply Memorandum (“Def.
Reply”), DE 39.
argues that by providing sworn statements – and
agreeing to provide additional statements – she has
made her post-termination income information readily
available to Defendants. Plaintiff’s Memorandum in
Opposition (“Pl. Mem.”), DE 38. Plaintiff
additionally argues that the Court should not compel the
disclosure of her tax returns because 1) she filed jointly
with her husband who also works for the Defendant, and she is
therefore “scared of” retaliation against her
husband, and 2) that the tax returns contain sensitive and
confidential information unrelated to the subject matter of
the instant litigation. DE 38.
tax returns are relevant to her claim for lost wages.
Michelman v. Ricoh Americas Corp., 2013 WL 664893,
at *2 (E.D.N.Y. 2013). Indeed, both Plaintiff’s income
and the source of her income for the tax years of 2014
through 2016 are relevant to her claims of lost wages.
Id. (citing McIntosh v. Bank of Am., 2008
WL 4501911, at *3 (W.D.N.Y. 2008). The Court further finds
that Defendants’ have set forth a compelling need for
such returns. That is because Plaintiff has offered no other
evidence other than her unsubstantiated testimony in support
of her claim of lost wages. Therefore, the production of her
tax returns is necessary to confirm whether Plaintiff has
– or has not – received income after her
employment with Defendants. See Michelman, 2013 WL
664893, at *2; see also Artica v. J.B. Custom Masonry
& Concrete, Inc., 2012 WL 11945654, at *8 (E.D.N.Y.
2012) (noting that New York Law requires a Plaintiff to
establish damages for lost wages “to submit W–2
forms, income tax returns, or other relevant
evidence”); see also Wang v. Yum! Brands,
Inc., 2007 WL 1521496, at *5 (E.D.N.Y. 2007) (collecting
cases) (noting that Under New York law unsubstantiated
testimony is insufficient to establish damages for lost
wages); Mugavero v. Arms Acres, Inc., 680 F. Supp.
2d 544, 581 (S.D.N.Y. 2010) (same).
is therefore directed to produce the portions of her tax
returns, for the tax years 2014 through 2016, which set forth
the amounts and sources of her income from wages, salaries,
tips and other earned income. See Hanoch v. Janoff &
Olshan, Inc., 1999 WL 262278, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. 1999)
(quoting Nielsen v. Society of the New York
Hospital, 1989 WL 52316, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. 1989)).
However, as the tax returns may include information that is
both sensitive and irrelevant to Plaintiff’s claims,
Plaintiff may redact all information from her tax returns
that does not ...