United States District Court, D. New Jersey
J. Hagerty Hagerty & Bland-Tull Law LLC Attorney for
Plaintiff Randal Long
Christopher James Gilligan, Michael R. Miller, Margolis
Edelstein, Attorneys for Defendant Legett & Platt,
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
case concerns a claim of retaliation under the New Jersey Law
Against Discrimination (“NJLAD”). Presently
before the Court is Plaintiff Randal Long's appeal
pursuant to Local Rule 72.1(c)(1) of a discovery order
entered by the Magistrate Judge assigned to the matter on
June 13, 2018 (“Appeal”). Plaintiff's Appeal
will be granted for the reasons that follow.
Court bases its factual recitation on the parties'
statements of facts, Plaintiff's Second Amended Complaint
(“SAC”), the at-issue discovery requests and
responses, the transcript of the proceedings held before the
Magistrate Judge on June 8, 2018, and the Magistrate
Judge's June 13, 2018 Opinion and Order (the
a mixed-motive case brought under NJLAD in which the
Plaintiff alleges he was terminated from Defendant Long &
Platt, Incorporated (“L&P”) in retaliation
for reporting a claim of sexual harassment allegedly
committed by another employee, Robert “Bobby”
Keen. Plaintiff - except for a five-year hiatus between 1989
and 1994 - worked for L&P from 1982 until his termination
in January 2016. At the time of his termination, Plaintiff
was Senior Vice President of Sales. In April 2014, John Case
was hired as President of L&P.
December 21, 2015, Plaintiff informed Robert Newcombe, the
Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing, that Keen, an
employee at L&P, was sexually harassing a female
employee. No. action was taken by Newcombe or Case following
Plaintiff's allegations. In January 2016, Plaintiff was
informed that his employment was being terminated and he was
given a severance package on January 15, 2016. Plaintiff
claims he was terminated “in retaliation for his
reporting the sexually harassing conduct of Keen, in
violation of the New Jersey Law Against
filed a complaint in New Jersey state court against Defendant
on May 23, 2016. The complaint alleged retaliation and aiding
and abetting under the NJLAD, and requested punitive damages.
The matter was removed to this Court on August 11, 2016 based
on diversity jurisdiction. Defendants filed a Motion for Judgment
on the Pleadings on February 10, 2017. Plaintiff filed a
Cross-Motion to Amend the Complaint on March 6, 2017.
Court's Opinion and Order on September 27, 2017 dismissed
Case from the action, dismissed the aiding and abetting and
punitive damages counts, and granted Plaintiff's request
to file an amended complaint. Plaintiff filed the SAC on
October 30, 2017 and L&P answered shortly thereafter.
discovery dispute arose between the parties, which is the
subject of this appeal, concerning other complaints of sexual
harassment against Keen. In Plaintiff's document request
number eight (“Request 8”), Plaintiff requested
documents “which reflect, support, arise from or
otherwise relate to: any complaints of sexual harassment made
against Robert “Bobby” Keen . . . .”
(Hagerty Ltr. 2, Docket No. 48.) Defendant objected,
asserting Request 8 sought “information outside the
relevant time frame, irrelevant to the claims begin
litigated, and not calculated to lead to admissible
evidence.” (Id.) The Magistrate Judge heard
argument on this document request on June 8, 2018.
theory of Request 8's relevance is relatively
straightforward. Plaintiff alleges that Keen had been accused
of sexual harassment several times before Plaintiff brought
to the Defendant's attention information he received on
Keen's alleged sexual harassment to Case. Plaintiff
believes that what happened to him is part of a pattern by
L&P of protecting Keen by retaliating against those who
brought forth information on Keen's alleged sexual
harassment of others. This pattern, Plaintiff theorizes, is
relevant to L&P's motive for retaliation.
13, 2018, the Magistrate Judge issued the Order determining
that Defendant need not produce the documents outlined in
Request 8. The Court rested this determination on several
grounds. First, the Magistrate Judge cited this Court's
Opinion, stating that only circumstantial evidence occurring
between the protected activity and adverse action is relevant
to causation. (Disc. Order 2.) Second, the Court concluded
that “information concerning other complaints of
harassment” is not relevant to a retaliation claim.
(Id.) Third, the Magistrate Judge determined these
other complaints would “offer little or no probative
value and would strain the proportionality requirement of
Rule 26.” (Id. at 3.) The reason:
“Plaintiff's offered rationale” as to the
relevance of these complaints (discussed supra)
required multiple leaps and assumptions that significantly
decreased the documents' probative value.
27, 2018, Plaintiff erroneously filed the Appeal as a
“Motion to Compel Discovery (Appeal from
Magistrate's Decision).” The Clerk placed a quality
control message on the docket, requesting Plaintiff to
re-file the Appeal as an “Appeal of Magistrate Judge
Decision to District Court.” Plaintiff did so the
following day. The Appeal has been fully briefed by both
parties and is thus ripe for adjudication.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 1332, because there is complete diversity between the
parties and the amount in controversy exceeds $75, 000.