United States District Court, D. Kansas
CLARA R. FULLER, Plaintiff,
STATE OF KANSAS, DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES, et al., Defendants.
P. O'HARA U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
se plaintiff in this employment-discrimination case has filed
a motion asking the court to compel defendants to provide
contact information for her former co-workers (ECF No.
122). Because the court finds the information
sought facially relevant and not protected by statute, the
motion is granted.
case arises from plaintiff's employment in
January-February 2016 with the Low Income Energy Assistance
Program (“LIEAP”), a federally-funded program
administered by the Kansas Department of Children and
Families (“DCF”). Plaintiff alleges defendants
terminated her employment because of her race, and she
disputes defendants' assertion that her work performance
discovery, plaintiff served an interrogatory requesting the
names and addresses of her LIEAP co-workers. DCF responded to
the interrogatory with the names, but not addresses, of the
co-workers, objecting that the addresses were protected from
disclosure by Kan. Admin. Reg. § 1-13-1b. In the instant
motion to compel, plaintiff explains that the co-workers have
information about what supervisors stated at daily morning
meetings regarding plaintiff and her co-workers'
responsibilities, including whether they were required to
process a set minimum number of LIEAP applications per day.
response to the motion, defendants first raise procedural
arguments that plaintiff, in violation of the court's
local rules, did not (1) attach the interrogatory in dispute
to her motion or (2) make an effort to confer before filing
the motion. The court does not view rule violations
lightly, and emphasizes to plaintiff that she must
carefully follow the court's procedural rules in the
future. But in this instance, the court finds practicality
and efficiency counsel in favor of reaching the substance of
the motion. Defendants acknowledge the interrogatory at issue
and do not dispute its contents, so they will not be
prejudiced by this approach. Moreover, the pretrial
conference is fast approaching on May 13, 2019, making timely
resolution of this matter desirable.
court therefore proceeds to the heart of the motion. First,
the court finds (and defendants have not disputed) that the
co-worker contact information plaintiff seeks is relevant.
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) allows a party to “obtain
discovery regarding any non-privileged matter that is
relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional
to the needs of the case.” At the discovery stage,
relevance is broadly construed. “[A]ny matter that bears
on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could
bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case” is
deemed relevant. Under this standard, the court finds the
requested co-worker contact information facially relevant. As
plaintiff noted, she could use the information to contact
individuals regarding defendants' stated expectations and
treatment toward plaintiff. The testimony of others who may
have observed discriminatory conduct by supervisors “is
typically relevant to the issue of discriminatory
assert that the addresses nevertheless are protected from
disclosure by Kan. Admin. Reg. § 1-13-1b. Section
1-13-1b(a) provides that “information contained in each
state employee's official personnel record shall not be
open to public inspection.” Significantly, however, the
regulation contains an exception applicable here: “The
official personnel record of any specifically named employee
shall be made available for inspection in connection with
litigation, pursuant to the terms of an order entered by a
judge of any federal, state, or municipal court having proper
jurisdiction over the litigation.”Thus, with the
entry of this order, the court finds nothing in §
1-13-1b that hinders the disclosure of the addresses of
plaintiff's former state co-workers.
THEREFORE ORDERED that plaintiff's motion to compel is
granted. Defendants are ordered to provide plaintiff the
names and addresses of each person employed by DCF in the
2016 LIEAP program by no later than April 19, 2019. Plaintiff
is hereby prohibited from using such contact information for
any purpose other than prosecuting this action.
 Although plaintiff titles her motion
as one seeking “in-camera review, ” the substance
of the motion makes clear plaintiff is seeking production of
information. The court holds pro se pleadings “to less
stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by
lawyers.” Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520
 See D. Kan. Rules 37.1 and
See Carter v. Spirit Aerosystems,
Inc., No. 16-1350, 2018 WL 5923487, at *7 (D. Kan. Nov.
13, 2018) (recognizing that failure to confer is a sufficient
basis for denying a discovery motion, but exercising
discretion to address the motion on the merits); CCPS
Transp., LLC v. Sloan, No. 12-2602, 2013 WL 2405545, at
*1 (D. Kan. May 31, 2013) (stating that although the court
can deny a motion on procedural grounds for failing to meet
and confer, the court is within its discretion to address the
merits of the argument); White v. Graceland Coll. Ctr.
for Prof'l Dev. & Lifelong Learning, Inc., No.