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Carroll-Harris v. Wilkie

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

May 22, 2019

JENNIFER CARROLL-HARRIS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROBERT WILKIE, Acting Secretary of Veteran Affairs, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SANCTIONS [48]

          Stephen J. Murphy, III, United States District Judge.

         On April 2, 2018, after nearly six months of discovery, Plaintiff Jennifer Carroll-Harris filed her second amended complaint and alleged that Defendant failed to accommodate her disability, created a hostile work environment, and retaliated against her. ECF 23. The parties stipulated to four extensions of discovery. ECF 30, 35, 41, 46. During discovery, Defendant filed a motion to compel and a motion to dismiss certain claims for failure to comply with discovery orders. ECF 20, 32. The Court also conducted three telephonic status conferences with the parties. Then, on March 15, 2019, Defendant filed a motion for sanctions. ECF 48. Plaintiff filed two responses without explaining the duplicate filing. ECF 49, 50.[1] The Court will address only the later-filed response and treat it as an amended response. The Court has reviewed the briefs and finds that a hearing is unnecessary. E.D. Mich. LR 7.1(f). For the reasons below, the Court will grant Defendant's motion.

         BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff alleged that her employer, a hospital, failed to accommodate her disability, created a hostile work environment, and retaliated against her. See ECF 23, PgID 201-08. During discovery, Plaintiff produced emails related to her attempts to remedy the situation. One disclosure included three emails. Subsequent disclosures included three substantially similar emails with altered language.[2] Defendant argues that the three emails disclosed by Plaintiff "appear to be emails . . . fabricated by the Plaintiff." ECF 48, PgID 313.

         I. October 3, 2013 Email

         First, on October 3, 2013, Plaintiff sent an email complaining about radio noise in her work area ("October Email 1"). In relevant part, the email stated:

From: Carroll-Harris, Jennifer
Sent: Thursday, October 3, 2013 1:17PM
To: Thomas, Bonnie, VBADTRT; Lawrence, Charles
Subject: RE: Info requested
Hello Ms. Thomas, … On yesterday, the stereo was elevated so loud until my lead spoke with the staff and nurse manager to no avail. Yet, today I am the one issued notice not to lower volume on radio and the staff laughs at my attempts to get the proper use of my accommodation. I feel this is because EEO, HR, and all affiliated with granting my accommodation have failed to meet their obligations. I plan to contact the Dept. of Labor, whom assisted with getting my accommodations and other matters.

ECF 48-10, PgID 345. The second version of the email ("October Email 2") stated:

From: Carroll-Harris, Jennifer
Sent: Thursday, October 3, 2013 1:17PM
To: Lawrence, Charles
Subject: RE: request Hello, … On yesterday, the stereo was elevated so loud until my lead spoke with the staff and nurse manager to no avail. Yet, today I am the one issued notice not to lower volume on radio and the staff laughs at my attempts to get the proper use of my microphone. I feel this is because EEO, HR, and all affiliated with Dept. of Labor and accommodation have failed to meet their obligations. I plan to contact the Dept. of Labor, whom assisted with getting me accommodations and other matters.

ECF 48-14, PgID 351. As Defendant notes, the second email contained the following changes to the email's language:[3]

From: Carroll-Harris, Jennifer
Sent: Thursday, October 03, 2013 1:17 PM
To: Thomas, Bonnie, VBADTRT; Lawrence, Charles
Subject: RE: Info requested request
Hello Ms. Thomas, On yesterday, the stereo was elevated so loud until my lead spoke with the staff and nurse manager to no avail. Yet, today I am the one issued notice not to lower volume on radio and the staff laughs at my attempts to get the proper use of my accommodation microphone. I feel this is because EEO, HR, and all affiliated with granting my Dept. Of Labor and accommodation have failed to meet their obligations. I plan to contact the Dept. of Labor, whom assisted with getting my me accommodations and other matters.

         During her November 15, 2018 deposition ("November Deposition"), Plaintiff testified that she sent the October Email 2 to Charles Lawrence. ECF 48-18, PgID 435 (noting the exhibit and saying "this is what I sent to Charles Lawrence"). But then, during her March 6, 2019 deposition ("March Deposition"), Plaintiff testified that October Email 1 "was for sure sent." ECF 48-17, PgID 378 (responding "yes" to the question of whether deposition exhibit N was for sure sent); id. at 377 (describing that exhibit N included Bonnie Thomas's name in the "to" line). Also, Plaintiff contradicted her November Deposition and stated that she was unsure whether the October Email 2 was sent. Id. at 377-78 (describing exhibit M and stating she did not know whether it was sent). Finally, Plaintiff represented that the changed language was simply her notes. See Id. at 377 (describing part of the emails as "maybe just the note part"), 378 (stating "[t]his may be the note part I attached" to the email).

         II. July 15, 2014 Email

         Second, on July 15, 2014, Plaintiff emailed an Equal Employment Opportunity ("EEO") counselor, Lydia Ward, to discuss the EEO process ("July Email 1"). In ...


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