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Miranda v. Mahard Egg Farm, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Sherman Division

October 15, 2019

ISABEL TRANSITO MIRANDA, CESAR BAUTISTA, and CESAR ISLAS, Individually and On Behalf of All Others Similarly Situated Plaintiffs,
v.
MAHARD EGG FARM, INC., and MAHARD PULLET FARMS, INC., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          AMOS L. MAZZANT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the Court is Defendants' Motion to Compel Discovery (Dkt. #20). Having considered the Motion and the relevant pleadings, the Court finds that Defendants' Motion is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part.

         BACKGROUND

         This case was filed by Isabel Transito Miranda, Cesar Bautista, and Cesar Islas on behalf of themselves and a class of similarly situated Hispanic employees (“Plaintiffs” or “Hispanic Workers”) (Dkt. #1). The workers were all employed, or are currently employed, by Mahard Egg Farm, Inc., and Mahard Pullet Farms, Inc., (collectively “Mahard”) “at various times since February 4, 2015” (Dkt. #1). Mahard is a domestic for-profit corporation with various facilities across Texas and Oklahoma, including Chillicothe, Texas that “manages both egg farms and egg processing plants” (Dkt. #1). Mahard hires its employees to “clean, sort, and package eggs” (Dkt. #1). According to Plaintiffs, their time with Mahard was filled with intimidation, abuse, and discrimination (Dkt. #1).

         “The Hispanic Workers' work environment, ” according to the Complaint, “was permeated by intimidation and abuse. Mahard supervisory or management personnel-including Andy Mahard, Oscar San Miguel, and Tony Brown-regularly shouted at, cursed at, physically intimidated, and insulted the Hispanic Workers” (Dkt. #1). For example, Plaintiffs claim that “Mahard supervisory or management personnel hurled race-based insults at the Hispanic Workers”-in Spanish-“such as ‘worthless Mexicans, ” “monkeys, ” “fucking Hondurans, ” “stupid Guatemalans, ” “dumbasses, ” “motherfuckers, ” “wetbacks, ” and “illegals” (Dkt. #1). The supervisory or management personnel also, allegedly, “threatened to have the Hispanic Workers deported if they complained or did not obey orders” (Dkt. #1). In addition to verbal insults, Plaintiffs allege that the staff made “menacing gestures, ” threw tools and other objects at them, and, “on occasion, ” shoved, grabbed, or hit them (Dkt. #1). This physical conduct allegedly included sexual assault and harassment of some female Hispanic Workers (Dkt. #1). The personnel also, according to Plaintiffs, scolded the Hispanic Workers for taking rest breaks, “withheld information about their right to file claims for workers' compensation benefits when they were injured, ” and falsified their hours to deprive them of wages (Dkt. #1).

         Along with physical and verbal abuse, the supervisory and management personnel allegedly “subjected the Hispanic Workers to unreasonably dangerous, unsanitary, and degrading conditions because of their race” (Dkt. #1). For example, Plaintiffs contend that Mahard “refused to provide the Hispanic Workers with even the most basic safety and hygiene resources, personal protection equipment, or safety training that is necessary for the work and required by applicable regulations or industry standards” (Dkt. #1). This allegedly included refusing to provide the Hispanic Workers with “safety training, respirators, or gas monitors to protect the Hispanic Workers from dangerous levels of ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane, and carbon dioxide gases . . . .” (Dkt. #1). Further, Mahard allegedly refused to provide work boots, protective masks, earplugs, gloves, or aprons to Hispanic Workers-instead, Hispanic Workers were required to purchase any personal protection equipment themselves (Dkt. #1). On top of allegedly refusing to provide personal protection equipment, Plaintiffs contend that Mahard also refused to provide Hispanic Workers with bathrooms and potable water and required the Workers to “eat in the filthy farm environment, [with] no hand-washing facilities or clean break area” (Dkt. #1). Key to Plaintiffs' claims is the allegation that “the non-Hispanic workers employed by Defendants were treated with more respect” (Dkt. #1).

         According to Plaintiffs' Complaint, Isabel Transito Miranda, Cesar Bautista, and other Class Members were discharged after they “opposed or resisted” this alleged conduct (Dkt. #1). As a result of Mahard's allegedly unlawful conduct and subsequent discharge of Plaintiffs, Miranda, Bautista, and Islas filed the present action on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated on February 4, 2019 (Dkt. #1). Plaintiffs claim violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1981 pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 23(b)(1), (2), and (3) (Dkt. #1). Plaintiffs seek, among other things, compensatory and punitive damages as well as attorneys' fees and costs (Dkt. #1). Mahard denies all allegations (Dkt. #2).

         On April 24, 2019, the Court issued the Order Governing Proceedings (Dkt. #5). In the Order, the Court instructed the parties to produce “[a] copy of all documents, electronically stored information, witness statements, and tangible things in the possession, custody, or control of the disclosing party that are relevant to the claim or defense of any party” (Dkt. #12). Such production was to be accomplished not later than 10 days after the deadline for the Rule 26(f) conference (Dkt. #12). The Order, pursuant to Local Rule CV-26(d), defined “relevant” as including:

(1) information that would not support the disclosing parties' contentions; (2) those persons who, if their potential testimony were known, might reasonably be expected to be deposed or called as a witness by any of the parties; (3) information that is likely to have an influence on or affect the outcome of a claim or defense; (4) information that deserves to be considered in the preparation, evaluation, or trial of a claim or defense; and (5) information that reasonable and competent counsel would consider reasonably necessary to prepare, evaluate, or try a claim or defense

(Local Rule CV-26(d)). The Court then entered its Preliminary Scheduling Order (Dkt. #12) on July 1, 2019. In the Scheduling Order, the Court stated:

If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute without court intervention, the parties must then call the Court's chambers to schedule a telephone conference regarding the subject matter of the dispute prior to filing any motion to compel. After reviewing the dispute, the Court will resolve the dispute, order the parties to file an appropriate motion, or direct the parties to call the discovery hotline

(Dkt. #12).

         Following the issuance of the Court's Preliminary Scheduling Order, Mahard served its first set of Interrogatories and Requests for Production of Documents (Dkt. #20). Plaintiffs objected to multiple of the Interrogatories and Requests for Production (Dkt. #20, Exhibit A). Accordingly, the parties complied with the Court's Preliminary Scheduling Order and sought a telephone conference with the Court (Dkt. #16). The telephone conference occurred on August 6, 2019 (Dkt. #16). At the conference, the Court authorized Mahard-just like Plaintiffs-to file a motion to compel, if necessary (Dkt. #16). Mahard took up the Court's offer and has now filed a Motion to Compel seeking the following information:

1. Plaintiff Miranda
a. Order Plaintiff Miranda to produce her tax returns for 2010 to present to obtain the names of her other employers. Defendants need this information to determine when and where the alleged assault occurred.
b. Order Plaintiff Miranda to sign authorizations to obtain employment and medical records to get the complete records. Plaintiffs' counsel has been given several chances to do so, but has failed to comply with the LR and OGP.
c. Order Plaintiff Miranda to produce the unredacted notes from the report from Crime Victim Services and make a ruling on whether the ...

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