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Reed v. Forney Industries, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Florida, Fort Myers Division

March 26, 2018

RICHARD C. REED, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
FORNEY INDUSTRIES, INC., Defendant.

          ORDER

          CAROL MIRANDO United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court upon review of Plaintiff's Motion to Compel (Doc. 38) filed on March 1, 2018. Plaintiff seeks to compel Defendant Forney Industries, Inc. (“Forney”) to produce certain documents in response to his discovery requests. Doc. 38. He also seeks to depose certain witnesses. Id. at 2. Forney filed a response in opposition to the motion to compel. Doc. 41. Plaintiff further seeks to file a reply brief to Forney's response, which Forney does not oppose. Doc. 42. Plaintiff's motion for a reply brief is denied because the Court finds a reply brief will not aid the Court's ruling on the motion to compel.

         On May 25, 2017, this case was removed from the Circuit Court for the Twentieth Judicial Circuit in and for Collier County, Florida. Doc. 1. Forney is a family-owned corporation selling tool, equipment and accessory products. Doc. 25 ¶ 9. Plaintiff is a sixty (60) year old male, who was Forney's employee and generated and oversaw sales of Forney's products from September 2003 to December 2015. Id. ¶¶ 8, 10-11, 17. Plaintiff alleges he could not work from July 2015 to August 2015 because he suffered a knee injury and had knee surgery in July 2015. Id. ¶¶ 13-15. Plaintiff claims that after he returned to work in August 2015, Forney attempted to find fault with his work performance in efforts to terminate him. Id. ¶ 17. In December 2015, Forney terminated Plaintiff's employment, although he allegedly performed well at work. Id. ¶¶ 19-22.

         Plaintiff filed a Complaint on May 25, 2017 and subsequently amended his Complaint twice. Docs. 2, 20, 25. Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint alleges six counts: disability discrimination and retaliation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 12111 et seq., as amended; age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”), 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 et seq.; and disability discrimination, retaliation and age discrimination under the Florida Civil Rights Act, Fla. Stat. §§ 760.01 et seq. Doc. 25. On February 16, 2018, the Court entered an Amended Case Management and Scheduling Order, setting the discovery deadline to April 2, 2018, the mediation deadline to April 16, 2018, the deadline for dispositive motions to April 30, 2018 and a trial term to commence on October 1, 2018. Doc. 36.

         Plaintiff served his First Request for Production on June 26, 2017. Doc. 38-1. Forney responded to the request on January 12, 2018 by producing certain documents and raising various objections. Doc. 38-2. The parties continued their efforts to amicably resolve their discovery disputes into February 2018, but were unable to reach an agreement. Doc. 38 at 2. At issue here are Plaintiff's Request for Production Nos. 6, 14, 15 and 16 and Forney's objections to these requests. Docs. 38, 41. Plaintiff seeks to compel Forney's production of documents in response to these discovery requests. Doc. 38.

         Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the procedures for obtaining access to documents and things within the control of the opposing party. Fed.R.Civ.P. 34. Rule 34(a) allows a party to serve on any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b). Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a). Rule 26(b) permits 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. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). A request for production must state “with reasonable particularity each item or category of items to be inspected.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(1)(A). The party to whom the request is directed must respond within thirty days after being served, and “for each item or category . . . must state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(b)(2).

         First, Plaintiff seeks to compel Forney's response to his Request No. 6:

6. The complete personnel files of all individuals identified in response to Interrogatory No. 11, [1] including but not limited to, any documents, records, memoranda, notes, or computer printouts which were part of the personnel files at any time.
Response: As to item 6, the Defendant objects on the basis of relevancy and materiality to providing Mr. Wodzenski's entire personnel file. Attached hereto is Mr. Wodzenski's resignation letter dated 6/13/16.

Docs. 38-1 at 5, 38-2 at 1.

         Plaintiff argues he needs the requested documents in order to establish his discrimination claims. Doc. 38 at 8-9. Plaintiff appears to allege Wodzenski may have been involved in or accused of the same or similar misconduct as Plaintiff's but was disciplined differently. Id. at 8-9. Forney responds Wodzenski is not a similarly situated individual because Forney demoted Wodzenski due to his work performance issues whereas Forney terminated Plaintiff primarily because of his insubordination. Doc. 41 at 2. Alternatively, Forney requests to produce the requested documents under a confidentiality agreement. Id. at 3.

         Plaintiff is correct that in ADEA cases, courts employ the framework from McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792 (1973). Washington v. United Parcel Serv., Inc., 567 F. App'x 749, 751-52 (11th Cir. 2014). Under the McDonnell Douglas framework, a plaintiff may establish a prima facie case by showing four factors: he (1) was a member of the protected age group, (2) was subject to adverse employment action, (3) was qualified to do the job, and (4) was replaced by a younger individual, or ...


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