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Glenn v. Williams

September 3, 2002

MARVA Y. GLENN AND WANDA Y. DICKENS, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ANTHONY WILLIAMS, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John M. Facciola, United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION

This Title VII case is before me for discovery pursuant to LCvR 72.2. I herein resolve Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel ("Plains. Mot.").

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Marva Y. Glenn ("Glenn") and Wanda Y. Dickens ("Dickens") both worked for many years in the District of Columbia Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs ("Department") until their resignations in 1997. Glenn joined the Department in 1969 and was an inspections supervisor in the Housing Regulations Division ("Division") from 1984 through 1997. She claims that she was responsible for inspections in some of the most depressed and dangerous wards in the District.

Glenn filed complaints against the Department with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") in 1989 and 1990. Both complaints resulted in administrative settlement agreements. Even after these agreements were reached, however, Glenn complained of being overworked and understaffed, especially given the housing conditions in her wards. Amended Complaint ("Am. Compl.") ¶ 13. She further contends that less challenging wards were assigned to male supervisors. Am. Compl. ¶ 14. In addition, she claims that she was denied the additional training that was promised under the settlement agreements. Am. Compl. ¶ 15. Finally, Glenn asserts that the Division retaliated against her by lowering her performance evaluations and denying her any promotions. Am. Compl. ¶ 17.

Dickens began working for the Department in 1975 and held various positions during the course of her employment. Throughout her tenure, she complained of various discriminatory acts and brought two actions: (1) an EEOC complaint in 1976, and (2) a court complaint in 1983. A 1985 Consent Decree ordered the Department to pay $50,000 for paralegal training and to refrain from any future discriminatory actions. Am. Compl. ¶ 26. Dickens claims that the Department paid for two training courses but refused to pay for any additional classes, thus preventing her from receiving certification. Am. Compl. ¶ 27. She also claims that the Department continued to engage in discriminatory acts such as detailing her to other positions, assigning her higher job responsibilities without any promotion or pay increase, refusing to promote her, improperly placing her on "absent without official leave" status, placing her on the "reduction-in-force" list, and encouraging other employees to discriminate against her. Am. Compl. ¶ 29.

In 1997, the District of Columbia Financial Responsibility and Management Assistance Authority ("Control Board") assumed governance of much of the District's administration, including the Department. In August 1997, the Control Board issued a directive to department heads, authorizing them to terminate unneeded employees without the ordinary procedural hurdles. Plaintiffs were informed of these new rules that effectively made them "at will" employees. In light of these events, Glenn and Dickens resigned, rather than risk termination. Am. Compl. ¶ 22.

Plaintiffs brought this action in May 1998. After resolving outstanding service of process issues, plaintiffs began discovery in earnest in 2001. Defendants have filed a motion for summary judgment, but Judge Kollar-Kotelly has allowed plaintiffs to await the outcome of the present discovery dispute before filing their opposition.

DISCUSSION

Plaintiffs move to compel production of the following three categories of information: (1) documents relating to promotions of Department personnel, (2) documents relating to the assignment of Department employees to other positions, and (3) document relating to Department-wide hiring and promotion freezes. Plains. Mot. at 3.

Defendants object primarily on the grounds that the requests are unduly burdensome and overly broad. They assert that the Department does not maintain documents on assignments or promotions, and that in order to retrieve this information they would have to review over 1,000 personnel files from the years 1987 through 1997.

In their opposition, defendants emphasize the distinction between "disparate impact" and "disparate treatment" theories, insisting that plaintiffs have asserted only the latter. The distinction is worth noting. A "disparate treatment" claim is an individual complaint of discrimination, whereas a "disparate impact" claim implies victimization due to discriminatory policies. Here, the complaint appears to advance individual acts of discrimination committed solely against the plaintiffs.

It has been established that comparative information concerning an employer's treatment of individuals is relevant evidence in an individual discrimination claim. Such evidence may be used to construct a prima facie case of discrimination. See Minority Employees at NASA (MEAN) v. Beggs, 723 F.2d 958, 962 (D.C. Cir. 2001). Yet, as with so many discovery disputes in Title VII cases, this one boils down to the appropriate scope of production of information pertaining to non-party employees at the plaintiffs' workplace. I have dealt with this very issue in the recent case of Pleasants v. Allbaugh, 208 F.R.D. 7, 12-13 (D.D.C. 2002), in the context of other complaints of discrimination. See also Mitchell v. National R.R. Passenger Corp., 208 F.R.D. 455, 460 (D.D.C. 2002)("[O]ther claims of discrimination against a defendant are discoverable if limited to the same form of discrimination, limited to the same department or agency where plaintiff worked, and limited to a reasonable time before and after the discrimination complained of"). In addition, in Childers v. Slater, No. 97-853, 1998 WL 429849 (D.D.C. 1998), I wrote the following:

[S]eeking information about all discrimination actions filed against an entire agency sweeps too broadly. Such a request involves cases which have nothing to do with plaintiff's division or branch or the supervisors she accuses of discriminatory conduct and which are, therefore, irrelevant to plaintiff's action. However, to the extent that plaintiff seeks information to make her case that there was a persistent "pattern of discrimination" within her ...


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