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Kannan v. Apple Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. California, San Jose Division

July 11, 2019

RAJA KANNAN, Plaintiff,
v.
APPLE INC., Defendant.

          ORDER RE DISCOVERY DISPUTE RE PLAINTIFF'S DOCUMENTS REQUESTS TO APPLE RE: DKT. NOS. 90, 100

          VIRGINIA K. DEMARCHI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Raja Kannan moves to compel the production of documents from defendant Apple, Inc. (“Apple”) in support of his claims that Apple discriminated against him. Dkt. No. 90.[1]Apple objects that many of requested documents are not relevant to Mr. Kannan's claims and asserts that it has completed its production as to other requested documents. Dkt. No. 100.[2] The Court held a hearing on this dispute on July 9, 2019. Dkt. No. 103.

         The Court grants in part and denies in part Mr. Kannan's motion to compel.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Mr. Kannan brings this action against his former employer, Apple, [3] asserting the following claims: (1) discrimination based on perceived disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq.; (2) discrimination based on relationship to a person with a disability in violation of the ADA; (3) retaliation in violation of the ADA; (4) discrimination based on perceived disability in violation of the California Fair Employment and Housing Act (“FEHA”), Cal. Gov. Code § 12900 et seq.; (5) discrimination based on association with a disabled person in violation of FEHA; (6) retaliation in violation of FEHA; (7) violation of the Family Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), 29 U.S.C. §2601 et seq.; (8) interference with rights in violation of the FMLA; (9) retaliation in violation of the FMLA; (10) violation of the California Family Rights Act (“CFRA”), Cal. Gov. Code § 12945.2; (11) interference with rights in violation of CFRA; (12) retaliation in violation of CFRA; and (13) wrongful discharge. Dkt. No. 58. With respect to his discrimination claims, Mr. Kannan contends that his manager, Joseph Kotni, discriminated against him with respect to compensation, awards of stock and bonuses, performance evaluations, and placement in Apple's job classification structure because of Mr. Kannan's role in caring for his autistic son and because Mr. Kotni regarded Mr. Kannan himself as having the same or similar disability. See, e.g., id. ¶ 55.

         Mr. Kannan moves to compel Apple to produce documents responsive to Requests for Production Nos. 13, 14, 17-27 and 57. See Dkt. No. 90 at 46-53, 68. These requests are directed to Mr. Kannan's efforts to discover evidence in support of his allegations that Mr. Kotni and Apple treated him less favorably than other employees who were similarly situated to Mr. Kannan in terms of knowledge, experience, job duties, and responsibilities, or whose qualifications and performance were inferior to Mr. Kannan's. Apple objects to producing most of the documents requested, although it has offered to make a limited production of documents to resolve this dispute. Dkt. No. 100 at 5.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         A party may obtain discovery of any matter that is relevant to a claim or defense and that is “proportional to the needs of 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.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). The Court may also consider whether, for good cause shown, the discovery may be produced in a manner that restricts its disclosure. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1); 37(a)(5)(C).

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Requests for Production Nos. 13, 14, 17-27

         Collectively, these requests seek compensation and personnel records for Mr. Kannan and for the other employees who reported to Mr. Kotni from 2011 to the present. Mr. Kannan also seeks the same information for independent contractors who reported to Mr. Kotni during the same period. See Dkt. No. 90 at 46 (Requests for Production Nos. 13, 14).

         Mr. Kannan says this discovery is relevant to his claims because certain employees who reported to Mr. Kotni were similarly situated to him either because they had similar job responsibilities or were subject to the same compensation/stock award policies or both. Although Mr. Kannan did not begin reporting to Mr. Kotni until the fall of 2013, he seeks responsive documents for any employee or independent contractor who reported to Mr. Kotni from 2011 to the present.

         Apple objects to this discovery on several grounds. First, Apple argues that the employees for whom Mr. Kannan seeks records were not similarly situated because they did not perform the same jobs and had greater responsibility, and therefore the discovery is not relevant to Mr. Kannan's claims.[4] The Court disagrees. Mr. Kannan explains that his claim is based in part on Apple's failure to assign him the job classification he deserved and promotion of less qualified employees to jobs with greater responsibilities than his. Ultimately, Mr. Kannan may not be able to demonstrate that all of the other employees who reported to Mr. Kotni were similarly situated, but for purposes of discovery, Mr. Kannan has articulated a reasonable basis for concluding that these employees' records are relevant to his disparate treatment discrimination claims, and the Court will permit this discovery.

         Second, Apple objects that the discovery should not include records of independent contractors. At the hearing, Apple advised the Court that at most nine other employees reported to Mr. Kotni during the period of time Mr. Kannan also reported to Mr. Kotni, and that many more independent contractors also worked under Mr. Kotni. Mr. Kannan has not explained how the documents reflecting the compensation, job responsibilities, and performance evaluations of independent contractors are relevant to any of ...


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