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Shi v. Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 6, 2017

DR. HENG SHI, Plaintiff,



         This is an employment discrimination case. Plaintiff Dr. Heng Shi (“Plaintiff”) filed a Motion to Compel the production of additional written discovery and to re-depose a non-party witness.[1] [Pl.'s Mot. to Compel, ECF No. 13, (“hereinafter “Pl.'s Mot.”), and Memorandum of Law, ECF No. 13-1 (hereinafter “Pl's Memo. of Law”)]. Defendant Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (“Defendant” or “CHOP”) has filed a response. [Def.'s Resp., ECF No. 19 (hereinafter “Resp.”)]. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion will be granted in part, and denied in part.


         The Court writes primarily for the parties, who are familiar with the background and procedural posture of the case. Plaintiff worked for sixteen years as a Mass. Spectrometrist Specialist (“Mass Specialist”) in the Chemistry Laboratory of CHOP. (Compl. ECF No. 1 at ¶ ¶ 7-8). She was terminated on November 17, 2015. (Id. at ¶ 57). According to CHOP, all Mass. Specialist positions in the Chemistry Lab were eliminated due to an organizational restructuring that consolidated all mass spectrometry work in the Metabolic Laboratory. (Resp. 2-3). This reorganization allegedly led to the termination of Plaintiff and the other Mass. Specialist in the Chemistry Lab, a Caucasian male named Mark Eisman. (Id.). In the months after her termination, Plaintiff applied for job openings, allegedly created by the elimination of her position in the Chemistry Lab, but Plaintiff was not hired for any of these open positions. (Compl. ¶¶ 68, 70; Affidavit of Robert F. Donahue, Ex. A, ¶7, Pl. Memo. of Law, ECF No. 13-3).

         Plaintiff thus brought this action against her former employer CHOP and two individual defendants, Vipul Shah and Tracey Polsky, asserting claims of discrimination based on national origin and race, hostile work environment, harassment, retaliation for making internal complaints and filing charges with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, and retaliation based on CHOP's alleged failure to rehire her to other positions for which she applied after her separation. (Compl.).

         Discovery has proceeded, with the parties conducting depositions of current and former CHOP employees, including Plaintiff's former supervisor, Theresa Vaccaro (“Vaccaro”). In addition, Defendant produced nearly 6, 000 pages of documents responsive to Plaintiff's multiple written discovery requests. Defendant's production included responsive emails with attachments such as Excel spreadsheets.[2] Specifically, Defendant produced Excel spreadsheets for certain fiscal years documenting the budget of all CHOP laboratories, listing all employee terminations in all CHOP laboratories, and identifying all open positions across all CHOP Departments. (Bates Numbered Documents CHOP 1390, CHOP 2328, CHOP 2519).[3]

         In her instant motion, Plaintiff seeks to compel: (1) production of similar Excel spreadsheets for multiple fiscal years before and after her termination; and (2) the re-deposition of Theresa Vaccaro to question her further about the terms of her retirement from CHOP, and the specific details of the severance package she received upon retirement. As explained below, I find that Plaintiff is entitled to a limited number of additional spreadsheets relevant to the issues and time period at hand, but is not entitled to re-depose Ms. Vaccaro.


         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow parties to obtain discovery 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 the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Information within the scope of discovery does not need to be admissible at trial to be discoverable. Id. While generally liberal, permissible discovery is not without limitations and should not serve as a fishing expedition. Upshaw v. Janssen Research & Development, LLC, No. 11-7574, 2014 WL 1244047, at * 3 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 26, 2014).

         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. Housing 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. The party resisting production must demonstrate to the court “that the requested documents either do not come within the broad scope of relevance defined pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) or else are of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure.” Young v. Lukens Steel Co., No. 92-6490, 1994 WL 45156, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 10, 1994) (quotations and citation omitted).


         A. Excel Spreadsheets (Plaintiff's Third Request for Documents Nos. 2 - 4)

         Plaintiff firsts asks the Court to compel Defendant to produce Excel spreadsheets for additional years reflecting data in three categories: (1) Job Requisition (Open Positions); (2) CHOP budget information for its main campus; and (3) employee turnover by month at CHOP's main campus. (Pl. Memo of Law 6-7). I will address each category in the order discussed by the parties.

         1. Job Requisition (Open Positions) ...

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