United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Columbia Division
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Plaintiff,
Akebono Brake Corporation, Defendant. Akebono Brake Corporation, Third-Party Plaintiff,
Carolina Personnel Services, Inc., and Carolina Industrial Staffing, Inc., Successor in Interest for Carolina Personnel Services, Inc. Third-Party Defendants.
V. Hodges United States Magistrate Judge.
religious discrimination employment case was brought by the
United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
(“EEOC”) based on a charge of discrimination
filed by Clintoria Burnett (“Burnett”) against
Akebono Brake Corporation (“Akebono”) pursuant to
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §
2000e, et seq. (“Title VII”). The case comes
before the court on the EEOC's motion pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 37, to compel Akebono entry onto its West
Columbia, South Carolina, facility (“Facility”)
for the purposes of inspection and videotaping
(“Request for Entry”). [ECF No. 73]. The motion
having been fully briefed [ECF Nos. 75 and 79], it is ripe
for disposition. All pretrial proceedings in this case were
referred to the undersigned pursuant to the provisions of 28
U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Civ. Rule 73.02(B)(2)(g)
(D.S.C.). For the reasons that follow, the court grants in
part and denies in part the EEOC's motion to compel.
alleges she was hired by staffing agency Carolina Personnel
Services (“CPS”) for a job with Akebono. [ECF
Nos. 14 at ¶¶ 38; 19 at ¶6]. The EEOC alleges
Akebono revoked the offer of employment to Burnett after
being informed of her religious belief prohibiting her from
wearing pants. [ECF No. 19 at ¶¶ 41, 48]. As a
defense, Akebono argues that Burnett's request for
accommodation by being permitted to wear skirts in lieu of
pants at the Facility was unreasonable and would have created
an undue hardship. [ECF No. 72 at 10]. It maintains in its
response to the EEOC's interrogatories that accommodation
would have been “unreasonable due to the nature of
Akebono's business and specifically the work performed at
the West Columbia Akebono location.” [ECF No. 73-6 at
10]. It claims that “[i]ndividuals wearing loose
clothing present a safety risk as their clothing may get
caught in the machinery, causing serious injury to the
EEOC previously served on Akebono a broader request for entry
upon land for inspection and other purposes on October 13,
2017. [ECF No. 73-8]. Akebono objected to the EEOC's
request as unduly speculative, prejudicial, inadmissible,
unduly burdensome, overly broad, unreasonable as to time and
manner, subject to confidentiality concerns, and intended for
the purposes of intrusion, harassment, and increasing the
costs of litigation. [ECF No. 73-9]. On December 7, 2017, the
court held a telephone conference to address the discovery
dispute and denied the EEOC's motion to compel without
prejudice to a more narrowly-circumscribed inspection
request. [ECF No. 61]. The EEOC subsequently served Akebono
with the Request for Entry on December 27, 2017, that
requested access to fewer areas of the Facility. [ECF No.
73-10]. Akebono objected to the EEOC's Request for Entry
on January 26, 2018, for reasons similar to those given in
response to the earlier, broader request. [ECF No. 73-11].
The court again addressed the discovery dispute during a
telephone conference on February 7, 2018, and granted the
EEOC leave to file a motion to compel. [ECF No. 67]. The EEOC
filed the instant motion on February 20, 2018. [ECF No. 73 at
1-2]. In the motion, the EEOC requests that it be permitted
to enter, inspect and videotape: (1) areas of the Facility
where “the position described by [Akebono Safety
Manager] Tom Stanfield in his deposition as ‘washer
inspection' is performed”; (2) areas where employees
of CPS were placed to perform general assembly positions
during the period from October 28, 2014, through October 31,
2014; and (3) all walkways to and from the
locations in (1) and (2). Id.
to Fed.R.Civ.P. 34(a),
A party may serve on any other party a request within the
scope of Rule 26(b) . . . (2) to permit entry onto designated
land or other property possessed or controlled by the
responding party, so that the requesting party may inspect,
measure, survey, photograph, test, or sample the property or
any designated object or operation on it.
seeking discovery may move for an order compelling inspection
if an adverse party “fails to respond that inspection
will be permitted-or fails to permit inspection-as required
under Rule 34.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iv).
party seeking discovery must establish its relevancy and
proportionality. Accolla v. Speedway, LLC, No.
0:17-1972-JMC, 2017 WL 5523040, at *2 (D.S.C. Nov. 17, 2017)
(citing Wilson v. Decibels of Or., Inc., No.
1:16-855-CL, 2017 WL 1943955, at *2 (D. Or. May 9, 2017)).
Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of
discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain 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
Id. The court must limit the frequency or extent of
discovery if it determines that:
(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or
duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that
is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;
(ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to
obtain the information by ...