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Stevenson v. Brennan

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

April 20, 2018

JAMES STEVENSON, Plaintiff,
v.
MEGAN J. BRENNAN, Postmaster General of the United States, Defendant.

          DAVID R. GRAND UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR DEFAULT JUDGMENT (ECF NO. 109)

          PAUL D. BORMAN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiffs Motion for Default Judgment as to Liability as to Retaliation Claims Involving Scheme Training and Termination Due to Spoliation of Evidence. (ECF No. 109.) In that Motion, Plaintiff argues that Defendant destroyed evidence with sufficient deliberateness and culpability as to warrant default judgment against Defendant on certain claims as a sanction. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs arguments lack merit; the Court denies Plaintiffs Motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed the instant Motion for Default Judgment as to Liability as to Retaliation Claims Involving Scheme Training and Termination Due to Spoliation of Evidence on March 6, 2018. (ECF No. 109, Pl.'s Mot.) Defendant filed a Response two days later (ECF No. 110, Def.'s Resp.), and Plaintiff filed a Reply on March 15, 2018 (ECF No. 115, Pl.'s Reply).

         Plaintiff's Title VII retaliation claim is premised partly on the allegation that his 2009 removal from his position at the U.S. Postal Service's Jefferson Station in Detroit, Michigan was an act of retaliation by Defendant, contrary to Defendant's explanation that he was removed from the job because he failed scheme training.[1](See ECF No. 55, 4th Am. Compl. ¶¶ 60-71, 103C-103E.) In support of this aspect of his retaliation claim, Plaintiff has asserted that other employees that were otherwise similarly situated to him failed training programs in a similar fashion, but were not subjected to removal in the way that he was. (See Id. ¶ 103C; see also ECF No. 77, Pl.'s Resp. Opp'n Def.'s Mot. Summ. J. at 19, Pg ID 2284.)

         On March 2, 2015, in the course of discovery, Defendant responded to a series of interrogatories and document requests propounded by Plaintiff. (ECF No. 103 Ex. 105.) Defendant's responses included the following:

Interrogatory No. 12: Please list the names of any and all career employees who failed either scheme or window training in the Detroit Installation from 01/01/08 to present.
Response to Interrogatory No. 12: Defendant objects to Interrogatory No. 12 because it is overly broad, unduly burdensome and not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Defendant does not have the ability to search for employees who failed scheme or window training generally without being provided an employee name. Subject to and without waiving objections, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(d), Defendant directs Plaintiff to those individuals identified in Defendant's response to Interrogatory No. 1 and Document Request No. 26 and documents Bates No. USPS 012126-012210.
Document Request No. 27: Please produce copies of any and all separation notice(s) for each and every employee who failed either scheme or window training in the Detroit Installation from 01/01/08 to present.
Response to Document Request No. 27: See Response to Interrogatory No. 12.

(Id. at Pg ID 4236-37.) Defendant notes in its Response that Plaintiff has not identified any USPS system that would in fact permit USPS to search for employees who failed scheme or window training without being provided with specific names. Defendant further notes that Plaintiff did not challenge Defendant's objections to Interrogatory No. 12 and Document Request No. 27, nor did he file a motion to compel discovery. (See Def.'s Resp. at 2-3, Pg ID 4638-39.)

         Plaintiff represents that Defendant produced scheme training records for eight specific USPS employees, and (presumably sometime later) produced scheme training records and a notice of separation for USPS employee Melissa Sanders, whom Plaintiff states he never identified in any of his EEO claims. (See Pl.'s Mot. at 3, Pg ID 4363.) Plaintiff also points out that Defendant has filed three declarations at different points in this proceeding by USPS employees who claimed to have reviewed USPS records (ECF No. 81 Ex. 34, Declaration of Nicole Collins-Earley; Ex. 36, Declaration of Michael Greene; ECF No. 88 Ex. 1, Declaration of Stacey O. Parker), and notes that none of these declarants “made any mention of missing records.” (Pl.'s Mot. at 4-5, Pg ID 4364-65.)

         On July 6, 2017, Plaintiff and the American Postal Workers' Union (“APWU”) submitted a records request to Defendant seeking scheme training records for five specified USPS employees, while pursuing a compensation claim unrelated to this matter. (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. I, July 6, 2017 Information Request and USPS Response.) Plaintiff asserts that while Defendant eventually produced records for four of the five named individuals, Defendant never produced records for one of them: Jacqueline Green. (See Pl.'s Mot. at 7-9, Pg ID 4367-69.) Plaintiff further asserts that he independently learned from Green “that she was a clerk assigned to the Jefferson Station in January 2011 and that she failed scheme training for the position, ” as well as other facts about Green that Plaintiff argues demonstrate that she was similarly situated to him. (Id. at 9, Pg ID 4369.)

         On November 9, 2017, Plaintiff filed an EEO complaint against Defendant for spoliation of scheme training records. (Pl.'s Mot. Ex. R, EEO Formal Complaint No. 4J-481-0190-17.) The EEO complaint was dismissed on November 22, 2017 by EEO Services Analyst Gil Grim, whose decision stated in pertinent part:

The Commission has long held that an employee cannot use the EEO complaint process to lodge a collateral attack on another forum's proceeding. The proper forum for Complainant to have raised his challenges . . . was within the civil court process itself. It is inappropriate to now attempt to use the EEO process to collaterally attack actions which occurred through the court process. In the instant complaint, you allege that you became aware that management withheld or destroyed records pertinent to your prior EEO cases. However, the record contains documents concerning the filing of a civil action concerning training issues in 2009. Number 06-CV-15182, in the United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan. The proper forum for you to raise challenges to actions which occurred in the civil court is through that forum itself. It is inappropriate to attempt to use the EEO process to collaterally attack actions which occurred during the above process.

(Pl.'s Mot. Ex. A, Dismissal of EEO Formal Complaint No. 4J-481-0190-17 at 3, Pg ID 4390.)

         Along with the dismissal of the EEO complaint, Plaintiff has submitted a document apparently generated in the pre-complaint counseling phase, entitled “EEO Alternative Dispute Resolution Specialist's (ADRS) Inquiry Report, ” and dated November 15, 2017. (Id. at Pg ID 4392-94.) The section of that document entitled “Dispute Resolution Specialist's Inquiry” states as follows:

Counselee is alleging discrimination on the basis of retaliation when on August 29, 2017, he became aware that records of others who failed scheme training were withheld and/or destroyed which he considers spoliation of evidence relative to his existing EEO complaints. An inquiry was requested and Gail Lewis, Manager of PEDC stated that Counselee was requesting ...

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