United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
F. SAPORITO, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the court on the defendant's motion for
a protective order. (Doc. 35). The issues have been briefed
and the motion is ripe for disposition. For the reasons set
forth herein, we will grant the motion.
plaintiff Tyra Johnson ("Johnson") filed a
complaint against the United States Postal Service
("USPS") alleging violations of the Family and
Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") after she was terminated
from her employment with the USPS. (Doc. 1). Johnson was
hired by the USPS on June 29, 2013, as a Mail Handler
Assistant ("MHA") at the Harrisburg Processing and
Distribution Center. MHAs are temporary employees who serve
in terms of 360 calendar days. As permanent Mail Handler
positions become available, senior MHAs can convert to
permanent employees subject to the successful completion of a
90-day probationary period. Johnson became eligible and
converted to a permanent Mail Handler on May 30, 2015.
before that conversion, Johnson notified USPS that she had a
high-risk pregnancy and would require a light work duty
assignment, which the USPS provided. The parties disagree
about the subsequent facts in the case. Johnson claims that
after she converted to a permanent status, the USPS refused
to provide her with accommodations as it had done in the
past. She further claims that the USPS forced her to take an
unpaid leave of absence, unless she could return to work
without restrictions. The USPS argues that it provided
Johnson with the requested accommodations and approved her
FMLA case once she produced the requisite medical
documentation. Both parties agree that Johnson was separated
from the USPS in August 2015. Johnson contends that she was
terminated by the USPS because of her FMLA requests. The USPS
maintains that it declined to retain Johnson after the 90-day
probationary period because of performance and disciplinary
seeks deposition testimony from the USPS under Fed.R.Civ.P.
30(b)(6) regarding the employment records of all employees at
the Harrisburg Processing and Distribution Center "at
any time in the past five years" who converted to career
employment. The USPS estimates the number of employees who
fit into this category to be "at least 130, and perhaps
as many as 337." (Doc. 35 ¶4). The USPS argues that
this discovery request is "overly broad, seeking
irrelevant information, and imposing a burden disproportional
to the needs of the case." (Doc. 36, at 4). It has filed
a motion for a protective order (Doc. 35) asking the Court to
limit the scope of discovery to the fifteen MHAs who
converted at the same time as Johnson.
scope of discovery in federal court is governed by Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 26. Rule 26 is to be construed
liberally. See Tele-Radio Sys. Ltd. v. DeForest Elecs.,
Inc., 92 F.R.D. 371, 375 (D.N.J. 1981)(citing
Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340,
351(1978)). Rule 26 permits parties to "obtain discovery
regarding any nonprivileged mater that is relevant to any
party's claim or defense . . ." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b).
"Relevant information need not be admissible at the
trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead
to the discovery of admissible evidence." Id.
motion for a protective order is governed by Rule 26(c) of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 26(c) permits
"a party or any person from whom discovery is sought to
move for a protective order limiting the scope of discovery.
The motion must include a certification that the movant has
in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with the other
affected parties in an effort to resolve the dispute without
court action." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1). Accordingly, the
Court may, for "good cause," issue a protective
order to shield a party "from annoyance, embarrassment,
oppression, or undue burden or expense." Id.; see
also Pansy v. Borough of Stroudsburg, 24 F.3d 772, 786
(3d Cir. 1994) ("All such orders are intended to offer
litigants a measure of privacy, while balancing against this
privacy interest the public's right to obtain information
concerning judicial proceedings.").
moving party "must demonstrate that 'good cause'
exists for the order." Id. "Good
cause" means "that disclosure will work a clearly
defined and serious injury to the party seeking closure. The
injury must be shown with specificity." In re
Avandia Mktg., Sales Practices & Prods. Liab.
Litig., 924 F.3d 662, 671 (3d Cir. 2019) (quoting
Pansy, 24 F.3d at 786). Consequently, "broad
allegations of harm, unsubstantiated by specific examples of
articulated reasoning, do not support a good cause
showing." Id. Courts considering whether
"good cause" exists look to various factors,
including but not limited to:
1. Whether disclosure will violate any privacy interests;
2. Whether the information is being sought for a legitimate
purpose or for an ...