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Upshaw v. Janssen Research & Development, LLC

United States District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania

March 26, 2014

KIM UPSHAW
v.
JANSSEN RESEARCH & DEVELOPMENT, LLC

MEMORANDUM

R. BARCLAY SURRICK, J.

Presently before the Court is Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Discovery and Strike Objections of Defendant Janssen Research & Development, LLC (ECF No. 19) and Defendant’s Cross-Motion for the Entry of a Protective Order (ECF No. 20). For the following reasons, Plaintiff’s Motion will be granted in part and denied in part, and Defendant’s Motion will be granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Kim Upshaw brought this race, gender, retaliation, and disability discrimination action against Defendant Janssen Research & Development, LLC (“Janssen”). Plaintiff is an African American female. She was hired by Janssen in July 2006. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 10-11, ECF No. 16.) In March 2008, Plaintiff was promoted to Privacy Director, Pharmaceuticals in Janssen’s Pharmaceuticals Group Health Care Compliance (PGHCC). (Id. at ¶ 12.) She remained in this position until she was constructively discharged and resigned in November 2010. (Id. at ¶ 13.) As Privacy Director, Plaintiff reported directly to Kris Curry (Caucasian female) and became a member of Curry’s Operations Leadership Team. (Id. at ¶¶ 15, 16, 18.) Also on Curry’s Operations Leadership Team were four other directors: Deborah Lake (Caucasian female); Christopher Matteson (Caucasian male); Anthony Brennan (Caucasian male); and Ed Benson (African American male). (Id. at ¶¶ 18-22.)[1] The Operations Leadership Team met annually in October, in what were called calibration meetings, to discuss performance review ratings of their respective direct reports. (Am. Compl. ¶ 23.) Ratings ranged from one, the lowest rating, to ten, the highest rating. (Id. at ¶ 25.) The Operations Leadership Team also met annually in June, in what were called succession planning meetings, to conduct mid-year reviews and assess those direct reports who were in line for promotion. (Id. at ¶ 24.) Direct reports included senior analysts and managers. (Id. at ¶¶ 23-24.) Plaintiff had two direct reports: Linda Bell-Powell (African American female) and Tom DeDeo. (Id. at ¶ 24.)

At a calibration meeting held on November 2, 2009, Plaintiff challenged the ratings of three managers: Michelle Kingsberry (African American female), Linda Bell-Powell, and Elizabeth Snyder (Caucasian female). (Id. at ¶¶ 25-30; Pl.’s Mot. 7, ECF No. 19.) Plaintiff challenged the fact that Snyder, the Caucasian female manager, received a rating of four, when Kingsberry and Bell-Powell, the African-American managers, received ratings of three, despite the fact that it was determined by the Operations Leadership Team that all three managers were not capable of performing their job duties. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 27-29; Pl.’s Mot. 7.) At the meeting, Curry stated that she did not appreciate the fact that Kingsberry had reported to Human Resources that Curry discriminated against her. (Am. Compl. ¶ 30; Pl.’s Mot. 7.) At the conclusion of the meeting, the Operations Leadership Team decided that Snyder, Kingsberry, and Daniel Greco (Caucasian male) would receive level three ratings and warning letters. (Am. Compl. ¶ 31; Pl.’s Mot. 7.) Plaintiff later learned at a June 1, 2010 succession planning meeting that despite all three of these managers receiving level three ratings, only Kingsberry was placed on calibrations performance steps. (Am. Compl. ¶ 32; Pl.’s Mot. 7-8.)

Plaintiff alleges that, as a result of her challenging the ratings of these managers, she suffered discrimination and retaliation on account of her race and gender. (Am. Compl. ¶ 33; Pl.’s Mot. 8.) Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant (1) failed to acknowledge her team’s accomplishments at the December 7, 2009 all-employees quarterly meeting, while mentioning the accomplishments of other Director’s teams; (2) failed to provide her sufficient staffing, despite numerous requests for additional staffing, while providing sufficient staffing to two other director’s teams; (3) reprimanded Plaintiff in February 2010 in an email; (4) failed to provide reasonable accommodations to Plaintiff after Plaintiff notified Curry that she had become overwhelmed and stressed; (5) failed to provide support to Plaintiff’s privacy team while providing support to the other teams within the PGHCC division; (6) permitted other directors to “map” or be automatically placed into a position in the reorganized company;[2] and (7) threatened Plaintiff with demotion to manager level if she did not apply for one of the new privacy director positions, while other directors on the Operations Leadership Team did not have to apply for these new director positions. (Am. Compl. ¶ 33.)

Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on April 30, 2012, asserting the following claims: racial and gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act (“PHRA”), 43 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 951, et seq., and 42 U.S.C. § 1981 (Counts I & II); racial and gender-based hostile work environment under Title VII, the PHRA, and Section 1981 (Counts III & IV); retaliation under Title VII and the PHRA (Count V); and disability discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq. (Count VI).

On July 5, 2012, Plaintiff filed the instant Motion to Compel Discovery and Strike Objections. (Pl.’s Mot.) Defendant filed a Response in opposition to the Motion to Compel (ECF No. 20), a Cross-Motion for Entry of a Protective Order (Def.’s Mot. Prot., ECF No. 20), and a Memorandum in support of both its Response and Motion for Protective Order (Def.’s Br.). Defendant also filed a Certification of Elena Chkolnikova (Chkolnikova Cert, ECF No. 20-2), which attaches various pleadings and correspondence related to this discovery dispute. Plaintiff filed a Reply in further support of her Motion to Compel (Pl.’s Reply, ECF No. 22), and a Response to Defendant’s Motion to Compel. (Pl.’s Resp., ECF No. 24).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

“It is well established that the scope and conduct of discovery are within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Marroquin-Manriquez v. I.N.S., 699 F.2d 129, 134 (3d Cir. 1983). Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) a party “may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The information sought in discovery need not be admissible at trial, as long as it “appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Id. Relevance is generally “construed broadly to encompass any matter that could bear on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Funds v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978).

Pursuant to Rule 37, a party who has received evasive or incomplete answers to discovery requests may move for an order compelling discovery. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(1), (4). The moving party bears the initial burden of showing that the requested discovery is relevant. Morrison v. Phila. Hous. Auth., 203 F.R.D. 195, 196 (E.D. Pa. 2001). The burden then shifts to the party opposing discovery to articulate why discovery should be withheld. Id. A claim that the “discovery sought is overly broad, burdensome, oppressive, vague or irrelevant is ‘not adequate to voice a successful objection.’” Northern v. City of Phila., No. 98-6517, 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4278, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 4, 2000) (quoting Josephs v. Harris Corp., 677 F.2d 985, 992 (3d Cir. 1982)).

While generally liberal, permissible discovery is not without limitations. Discovery should not serve as a fishing expedition. Provine v. Ambulatory Health Servs., No. 13-334, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 702, at *4-5 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 6, 2014); see also Claude P. Bamberger Int’l v. Rohm & Haas Co., No. 96-1041, 1998 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11141, at *5-6 (D.N.J. Mar. 31, 1998) (“While the standard of relevancy is a liberal one, it is not so liberal as to allow a party to roam in shadow zones of relevancy and to explore matter which does not appear germane merely on the theory that it might become so.” (quoting In re Fontaine, 402 F.Supp. 1219, 1221 (E.D.N.Y. 1975))). For Title VII plaintiffs seeking information regarding other employees, they must allege something more than the fact that they shared a position in common with them. Kanaji v. Phila. Child Guidance Ctr. of Children’s Hosp., No. 00-937, 2001 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 8670, at *9-10 (E.D. Pa. June 20, 2001). Rather, discovery of personnel files must be limited to documents related to the plaintiff’s claims in light of the confidential nature of this information. Apollo v. Pa. Convention Ctr. Auth., No. 11-6684, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 180032, at *5 (E.D. Pa. Dec. 23, 2013).

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff seeks information about various individuals employed or formerly employed by Defendant. Specifically, Plaintiff seeks personnel files, annual performance reviews and ratings, job duties, peer reviews, mid-year performance reviews and ratings, warning letters, Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs), in addition to electronic discovery and documents concerning, referring, or relating to Curry’s Operations Leadership Team, for the period of March 2008 through the present. (Pl.’s Mot. Compel 2.) Defendant contends that Plaintiff’s document requests are “patently overbroad, over-reaching, and intrusive, ” that the scope of the requests exceeds what is reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence, and that the information Plaintiff seeks would invade the privacy interests of the former and current employees. (Def.’s Br. 2.) Defendant also argues that since Plaintiff has not ...


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