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Hamilton v. Ogden Weber Technical College

United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division

November 20, 2017

BETH HAMILTON, Plaintiff,
v.
OGDEN WEBER TECHNICAL COLLEGE, Defendant.

          Jill N. Parrish District Judge

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

          DUSTIN B. PEAD UNITED STATES JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         This matter was referred to the Court under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). (ECF No. 4). This case involves allegations that Plaintiff was exposed to a hostile work environment created by sexual harassment as well as allegations that Defendant Ogden Weber Technical College retaliated against Plaintiff when she complained about the sexual harassment. (ECF No. 13). Presently before the court is Plaintiff's Motion to Compel Discovery. (ECF No. 21). Defendant filed a short-form opposition. (ECF No. 22). Plaintiff filed a reply. (ECF No. 23). In response to an order from the court, Defendant filed a full-length opposition. (ECF No. 26). The court has reviewed the parties' briefing and issues this decision without hearing oral argument.

         II. ANALYSIS

         a. Summary of Argument

         Plaintiff seeks documents related to complaints of sexual harassment made by any of Defendant's employees over the last ten years, and any investigative materials Defendants created as a result of those complaints. (ECF No. 21 at 2-4). Plaintiff also seeks communications to or from Roger Fletcher for the same ten-year period, as well as communications that “concern this litigation” from anyone related to Defendant, including its students. (ECF No. 21 at 4). Next, Plaintiff seeks certain communications for the time period October 1, 2013, to the present that involved Plaintiff or certain members of the department in which Plaintiff worked. (Id. at 2, 4, ) Finally, Plaintiff seeks her complete personnel file as well as Roger Fletcher's and Jennifer Streker's respective personnel files. (ECF No. 21 at 5-7.)

         Defendant's short-form opposition sets forth its position on Plaintiff's arguments. (ECF No. 22.) Defendant argues that documents related to a decade of sexual harassment complaints and investigations are not sufficiently proportional to the needs of this case to warrant discovery. Defendant also argues that Plaintiff's requests for communications regarding Mr. Fletcher dating back ten years and communications regarding this litigation are not proportional to the needs of this case. Defendant also states that its retention policy only allows it to recover emails for a limited period. Defendant also claims this retention policy limits its ability to respond to Plaintiff's request for emails from October 1, 2013, to the present. Defendant claims it provided Plaintiff with a complete copy of her own personnel file, but argues that the other files Plaintiff seeks pertain to employees with no role in Plaintiff's termination. Defendant expands on its arguments in the full-length opposition memorandum the court requested. (ECF No. 26). Defendant's expanded arguments are addressed in the analysis below.

         b. Analysis of missing emails

         Defendant must produce any requested emails responsive to the three requests below and the court will impose a sanction for spoliation for certain lost emails. Plaintiff seeks to compel responses to three requests related to emails:[1]

(1) “any group communications, including emails and other electronically stored information, concerning Business Technology Department sent from Jennifer Streker between October 1, 2013 to the present [and identify the recipient].” (ECF No. 21 at 2).
(2) “any communications, including emails and other electronically stored information, concerning Roger Fletcher sent to or from anyone in Defendant's Business Technology Department or Defendant's Human Resource Department . . . concerning complaints about Roger Fletcher's conduct, including but not limited to those communications which contain the following words or phrases: sexual, sexual harassment, harassing, harass, inappropriate, vulgar, tasteless, offensive, touch, touches, women, language, uncomfortable, near him, around him, workspace, work area, jokes.” (Id. at 3).
(3) “any group communications, including emails and other electronically stored information, concerning Business Technology Department sent to Beth Hamilton between October 1, 2013 to the present.” (Id. at 4).

         Plaintiff contends her requests are appropriately limited, seek relevant information, and that Defendant had a duty to preserve the requested information once it received notice that Plaintiff intended to file a claim. (ECF No. 21 at 3). Plaintiff contends the EEOC notified Defendant to retain documents at the time Plaintiff filed her complaint with the EEOC. (Id.)

         1. Defendant must provide all available responsive documents

         As an initial matter, the materials sought are facially relevant. Defendant suggests that the request for materials related to complaints about Mr. Fletcher is disproportionate because their limited relevance does not outweigh the burden of production. The court rejects this argument for two reasons. First, the request may reveal information about Defendant's knowledge of this and possibly other similar incidents involving Mr. Fletcher. Such information is directly relevant to Plaintiff's claims, particularly to whether Defendant adequately responded to Plaintiff's allegations. Second, Defendant offers no specific description of any burden in providing this material. (ECF No. 22 at 2; ECF No. 26 at 4-7). While all discovery ...


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