United States District Court, D. Nebraska
NATHANIEL D. BETHEA, an individual; Plaintiff,
ACCESS BANK, a Nebraska bank; Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
R. Zwart United States Magistrate Judge.
Nathaniel Bethea alleges the following claims under Title VII
of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2, et
seq., against Defendant Access Bank: 1) employment
discrimination based on religion; 2) failure to accommodate a
religious practice; and 3) retaliation for requesting an
employment accommodation. (Filing No. 1).
argues his religious practices preclude him from working
during the Sabbath, which he defines as weekly occurring from
Friday nightfall through the following Saturday. (Filing
No. 39-2 at CM/ECF p. 72). Plaintiff claims he requested
an accommodation from his former employer-Access Bank-that
would excuse him from working Saturday shifts in order to
observe the Sabbath. He further alleges that he was denied
that accommodation and was instead terminated as an employee
based on his request. Defendant Access Bank denies that
Plaintiff's termination was result of his religious
practices or his request for an accommodation. (Filing
this matter is before the court on Defendant's Motion to
Compel. (Filing No. 34). Defendant requests an order
compelling Plaintiff to produce documents responsive to
Defendant's Requests for Production Nos. 23 and 24.
(Id.). Defendant requests “all documents
reflecting any purchases made by you between December 8, 2015
and the present that occurred between 5 p.m. on a Friday and
12 a.m. on a Sunday” and “all documents,
including but not limited to text messages or emails with
clients or potential clients, reflecting any real estate
showing that you attended from January 1, 2016 to
present[.]” (Id.). Defendant claims this
information is relevant to whether Plaintiff's purported
religious belief is “sincerely held, ” as
required by statute. (Filing No. 35). Plaintiff
responds that the information sought is irrelevant,
overbroad, and seeks to improperly evaluate his religious
convictions. (Filing No. 38 at CM/ECF p. 3).
following reason, the court will grant Defendant's
speaking, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allow for
discovery of “any unprivileged matter that is relevant
to a party's claim or defense.” Gov't of
Ghana v. ProEnergy Servs., LLC, 677 F.3d 340, 344 (8th
Cir. 2012) (citing Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1)). And
relevancy, for the purposes of discovery, encompasses
“any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could
lead to other matters that could bear on, any issue that is
or may be in the case.” Oppenheimer Fund, Inc. v.
Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978). “[R]elevant
information need not be admissible at the trial if the
discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the
discovery of admissible evidence.” WWP, Inc. v.
Wounded Warriors Family Support, Inc., 628 F.3d 1032,
1039 (8th Cir. 2011) (internal citation omitted).
party seeking discovery “must make ‘[s]ome
threshold showing of relevance . . . before parties are
required to open wide the doors of discovery and to produce a
variety of information which does not reasonably bear upon
the issues in the case.'” Prism Techs., LLC v.
Adobe Sys., Inc., 284 F.R.D. 448, 449 (D. Neb. 2012)
(quoting Hofer v. Mack Trucks, Inc., 981 F.2d 377,
380 (8th Cir.1992)). “[D]iscovery is not permitted
where no need is shown, or compliance would be unduly
burdensome, or where harm to the person from whom discovery
is sought outweighs the need of the person seeking discovery
of the information.” Miscellaneous Docket Matter
No. 1 v. Miscellaneous Docket Matter No. 2, 197 F.3d
922, 925 (8th Cir. 1999) (internal citation omitted).
outlined above, Defendant is required to establish that its
document requests are reasonably targeted to obtain materials
that bear on one of the claims or defenses raised in the
case. Oppenheimer, 437 U.S. at 351.
claims for religious discrimination and failure to
accommodate share the necessary element that Plaintiff hold a
“bona fide religious belief that conflicts with an
employment requirement…[.]” Ollis v.
HearthStone Homes, Inc., 495 F.3d 570, 575 (8th Cir.
2007) (citing Seaworth v. Pearson, 203 F.3d 1056,
1057 (8th Cir.2000)).
religious belief is “bona fide” if the plaintiff
establishes that it is both religious and “sincerely
held.” E.E.O.C. v. JBS USA, LLC, No.
8:10CV318, 2013 WL 6621026, at *16 (D. Neb. Oct. 11, 2013).
Put differently, “if the religious beliefs…are
not sincerely held, there has been no showing of a
religious observance or practice that conflicts with an
employment requirement.” E.E.O.C. v. Abercrombie
& Fitch Stores, Inc., No. 4:08CV1470JCH, 2009 WL
3517578, at *3 (E.D. Mo. Oct. 26, 2009) (emphasized added).
Defendant contests whether Plaintiff's religious belief
in observation of the Sabbath is sincerely held, and it seeks
discovery probative of that contention.
correctly noted by Plaintiff, it would be improper for the
court to evaluate the truth, logic, or reasonableness of
Plaintiff's religious beliefs. (Filing No. 38 at
CM/ECF pp. 2-3). But, the court here makes no such
determination. The court need not-and should not-evaluate the
substance of Plaintiff's professed religious practices.
Fowler v. Rhode Island,345 U.S. 67, 70 (1953).
However, it is entirely ...