Court Orders Discovery of Prior Sexual Harassment Claims in Hostile Work Environment Case

In Blackmore v. Fossner Timepieces Clock Shop, Inc., No. 159279/2021, 2023 WL 5957075 (N.Y. Sup Ct, New York County Sep. 11, 2023), a hostile work environment/retaliation case, the court, inter alia, granted plaintiff’s motion to compel certain items of discovery.

As to one such item, which frequently sought in discrimination cases, the court explained:

Plaintiff next requests all documents related to prior discrimination and retaliation claims against defendants (document request nos. 36-39). Plaintiff argues that her predecessor made sexual harassment claims against Fossner that culminated in a settlement and that information regarding that matter goes to the conditions of defendants’ workplace for women. Defendants object to this request as overbroad and irrelevant, arguing that this is a single-plaintiff action for retaliation and hostile work environment and that plaintiff’s request amounts to a fishing expedition.

Here, plaintiff has a reasonable basis to believe that another employee filed similar discrimination claims against defendants. See EEOC v Princeton Healthcare System, 2012 WL 1623870 (D NJ May 9, 2012). As “[d]isclosure extends to all relevant information calculated to lead to relevant evidence” (West v Aetna Casualty and Surety Co., 49 Misc2d 28, 29 [Sup Ct, Onodaga County], aff’d in relevant part, 28 AD2d 745 [3d Dept 1967]), the disclosure of previous claims may shed light on the nature of the workplace and the work environment, which is at issue. Although the documents relating to prior discrimination claims may not be admissible at trial, at this juncture, the Court need only determine whether the documents may lead to relevant evidence. Moreover, defendants have not raised any other objections to the provision of the requested documents, such as confidentiality.

Accordingly the court held that plaintiff was entitled to documents regarding discrimination and retaliation claims against defendants, but that such documents “shall be limited to the types of claims being pursued by plaintiff here, i.e. prior hostile work environment and retaliation claims within the past two years.”

Share This: