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Katharine Bush, et al v. Ruth's Chris Steak

June 18, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara J. Rothstein United States District Judge




The plaintiffs are former female employees of Ruth's Chris Steak House who allege that they were subjected to gender discrimination by Defendants, Ruth's Chris and other related corporate entities. Plaintiffs seek to represent a class of similarly situated women, prosecuting claims under Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000(e) et seq., and the District of Columbia Human Rights Act ("DCHRA"). In December 2011, the court issued an order that bifurcated the class and merits discovery. See generally Order (Dec. 19, 2011). The parties disagree on their interpretation of various provisions of that Order. These disagreements have prompted Plaintiffs to file a motion to compel, which is currently before the court. For the reasons discussed below, the court grants in part and denies in part Plaintiffs' motion.


A. W-2 data

The court's December 19, 2011 order ("the Order") requires Defendants to produce a computer-readable copy of W-2 data for "all persons employed during [January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2009] as Regional Vice President, General Manager, Sales Manager, National Sales Manager, Assistant General Manager, and Assistant Sales Manager, as well as for a random sample of 100 persons employed as Bartender and Key Employee" (hereinafter, "the relevant positions").*fn1 See Order (Dec. 19, 2011) at 5. The court limited the scope of human resources data like the W-2 data to what is presently available in Defendants' databases for January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2009 ("the relevant time period"). Id. Further, the Court ordered that "Defendants shall not be required to compile results from review of employee records." Id.

Plaintiffs argue that Defendants have not complied with the Order because they have only produced summary reports of W-2 annual earnings totals, as opposed to the "raw W-2 data as it is kept in the ordinary course of business." Pls.' Mot. at 2. Plaintiffs further argue that even those summary reports produced by Defendants are deficient because Defendants have limited their production of an employee's W-2 data to only those years that he or she held one of the relevant positions. Id. Thus, the plaintiff argues that if an employee was a Manager in 2006 and was later promoted to an Assistant General Manager in 2009, Defendants would have only provided the 2009 W-2 information, for instance, and not his 2006, 2007, and 2008 W-2s. Id.

Defendants insist that they have produced the W-2 data that that they maintain in their ordinary course of business. Defs.' Opp'n at 3. According to Defendants, satisfying Plaintiffs' request would require them "to run individual payroll reports for each relevant employee at issue, or run one report for all of the relevant employees and extract the information from that report" for each individual employee -- a burdensome task. Id. at 3-4. Additionally, Defendants argue that Plaintiffs' request would expand the scope of the Order to include positions other than the relevant positions, like servers and managers, "bringing the number of employees at issue potentially into the thousands." Id. at 4. Lastly, Defendants argue that the "paycheck-by-paycheck" information sought by Plaintiffs is irrelevant to this case. Id. at 4-5.

The court's prior order makes clear that Defendants are not required to sift through their employees' records and compile certain forms of Human Resources Data, including W-2 data. Defendants are therefore not required to produce paycheck-by-paycheck material. By July 20, 2012, Defendants shall, however, turn over the 2006-2009 W-2 data for any relevant employee, including W-2 data for those years within the relevant time period when the employee did not hold one of the relevant positions.

B. Job History

The Order requires Defendants to produce information on "job history including any changes in job function" for those employed during the relevant time period and in the relevant positions. Order (Dec. 19, 2011) at 4. Plaintiffs acknowledge that Defendants have produced "the relevant employees' initial salary and position information and the employees' job histories between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2009." Pls.' Mot. at 6. However, Plaintiffs also seek pre-January 1, 2006 job history data in cases where a relevant employee was hired before January 1, 2006, so as to fill any gaps between the hire date and 2006. Id. Such information, according to Plaintiffs' expert, is necessary "to analyze fully the data on promotions and determine the appropriate comparators." Id.

In response, Defendants argue that notwithstanding the court's Order limiting discovery to the time period between January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2009, Plaintiffs now seek job history information relating to dates outside this period. Defs.' Opp'n at 5. Moreover, Defendants contend that the job history information sought by Plaintiffs is irrelevant since their discrimination claims "center upon the fact that males from outside of the company were hired into Regional Vice President positions from 2006 forward." Id.

The Order unambiguously limits the production of job history information for those employees who were employed in relevant positions during the January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2009. Order (Dec. 19, 2011) at 4-5. The Order does not explicitly limit the job history information that must be produced to the job history that occurred between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2009. Id. The Order does, however, then go on to limit the production of all of ...

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