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Konecny v. BNSF Railway Co.

United States District Court, D. Kansas

June 20, 2014



KENNETH G. GALE, Magistrate Judge.

Now before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion to Compel. (Doc. 17.) Having reviewed the submissions of the parties, the Court GRANTS in part and DENIES in part Plaintiff's motion.


This is an employment discrimination claim brought pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 ("ADEA"), and 42. U.S.C. ยง1981. (Doc. 1.) Plaintiff contends that he was removed from his position as Senior Manager, Training & Technical Support because of his age, race, and sex in violation of these federal statutes. Further, he contends that the reason given - that "he supposedly had been dishonest by failing to disclose his adult daughter's relationship with William Maintz, who was hired in early 2012 to work in a position that reported to [Plaintiff]" - is pretextual. (Doc. 17, at 2-3.) Plaintiff contends that he disclosed that his daughter was "a very close friend" of Mr. Maintz prior to Maintz being hired and that he "was recused from Mr. Maintz' interview" as a result. ( Id. ) Plaintiff's daughter and Maintz were ultimately married, which Plaintiff contends he "promptly disclosed... pursuant to [Defendant's] Code of Conduct reporting process and... to HR Director Tamala Cleaver." ( Id., at 3.) Ms. Cleaver subsequently "launched an investigation' into [Plaintiff's] honesty, '" which lead to his removal from the management position he held. ( Id. )


A. Standards for Motions to Compel.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) states that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense.... Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." As such, the requested information must be both relevant and nonprivileged to be discoverable.

"Discovery relevance is minimal relevance, ' which means it is possible and reasonably calculated that the request will lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Teichgraeber v. Memorial Union Corp. of Emporia State University, 932 F.Supp. 1263, 1265 (D. Kan. 1996) (internal citation omitted). "Relevance is broadly construed at the discovery stage of the litigation and a request for discovery should be considered relevant if there is any possibility the information sought may be relevant to the subject matter of the action." Smith v. MCI Telecommunications Corp., 137 F.R.D. 25, 27 (D.Kan.1991). Stated another way, "discovery should ordinarily be allowed unless it is clear that the information sought can have no possible bearing on the subject matter of the action." Snowden By and Through Victor v. Connaught Lab., 137 F.R.D. 325, 341 (D.Kan.1991), appeal denied, 1991 WL 60514 (D.Kan. Mar. 29 , 1991).

Discovery requests must be relevant on their face. Williams v. Bd. of County Comm'rs, 192 F.R.D. 698, 705 (D. Kan. 2000). Once this low burden of relevance is established, the legal burden regarding the defense of a motion to compel resides with the party opposing the discovery request. See Swackhammer v. Sprint Corp. PCS, 225 F.R.D. 658, 661, 662, 666 (D. Kan. 2004) (stating that the party resisting a discovery request based on overbreadth, vagueness, ambiguity, or undue burden/expense objections bears the burden to support the objections).

Although the scope of discovery is broad, it is not unlimited. If the proponent has failed to specify how the information is relevant, the Court will not require the respondent to produce the evidence. Gheesling v. Chater, 162 F.R.D. 649 (D.Kan.1995). Even so, courts look "with disfavor on conclusory or boilerplate objections that discovery requests are irrelevant, immaterial, unduly burdensome, or overly broad." Id., 650.

"Unless a request is overly broad, irrelevant, or unduly burdensome on its face, the party asserting the objection has the duty to support its objections." Sonnino v. University of Kansas Hosp. Authority, 221 F.R.D. 661, n. 36 (D.Kan.2004) (citing Hammond v. Lowe's Home Ctrs., Inc. , 216 F.R.D. 666, 670 (D.Kan. 2003)); Cont'l Ill. Nat'l Bank & Trust Co. of Chicago v. Caton, 136 F.R.D. 682, 685 (D. Kan. 1991) (stating that a party resisting a discovery request based on relevancy grounds bears the burden of explaining how "each discovery request is irrelevant, not reasonably calculated to the discovery of admissible evidence, or burdensome"). Thus, "the objecting party must specifically show in its response to the motion to compel, despite the broad and liberal construction afforded by the federal discovery rules, how each request for production or interrogatory is objectionable." Sonnino, 221 F.R.D. at 670-71 (internal citation omitted).

B. Discovery Requests at Issue.

1. Interrogatories Nos. 11-12 and Requests Nos. 28-29.

Interrogatories Nos. 11 and 12 seek the identification of all charges of discrimination, lawsuits, or arbitration proceedings filed against defendant that include a claim of race or age discrimination, "within the areas of responsibility of any of the individuals identified in response to Interrogatory No. 1."[1] (Doc. 17-1, at 6-7.) Requests for Production Nos. 28 and 29 seek miscellaneous personnel information regarding such individuals. (Doc. 17-2, at 10-11.) Defendant objects that the interrogatories are "overly broad, unduly burdensome and not calculated to lead to the discovery of relevant evidence to the extent [the requests] essentially seek[s] company-wide information ...

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