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Harris v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 9, 2018

QUINTON HARRIS, GEOFFREY MILLER, NORMAN MOUNT, SCOTT ZINN, THOMAS TAYLOR, and JOHN BAKER, Plaintiffs,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          Susan M. Bazis United States Magistrate Judge.

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Protective Order (Filing No. 214) and Motion to Exclude Report of Dr. Jay Neitz (Filing No. 213). Plaintiffs' motions will be granted.

         BACKGROUND

         This is a putative class action for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (“GINA”), 42 U.S.C. § 2000ff et seq., and state law. (Filing No. 20.)

         Plaintiffs allege, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated, that Defendant's Fitness-for-Duty evaluation procedures unlawfully discriminate against employees on the basis of disabilities and genetic information. Plaintiffs assert that under Defendant's Fitness-for-Duty Program, employees holding particular types of positions are required to disclose certain specified heath conditions and reportable heath events, which generally include cardiovascular conditions, seizures or loss of consciousness, significant vision or hearing changes, diabetes treated with insulin, and severe sleep apnea. Plaintiffs allege that they were “excluded from their positions on the basis of disabilities that had no effect on their ability to perform the essential functions of their jobs.” (Filing No. 20.) Plaintiffs seek relief on behalf of the following proposed class:

Individuals who were removed from service over their objection, and/or suffered another adverse employment action, during their employment with Union Pacific for reasons related to a Fitness-for-Duty evaluation at any time from 300 days before the earliest date that a named Plaintiff filed an administrative charge of discrimination to the resolution of this action.

(Filing No. 20.)

         DISCUSSION

         1. Motion for Protective Order

         Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Rule 26 “is to be construed broadly and encompasses any matter that bears on, or that reasonably could lead to other matter that could bear on, any issue that is or may be in the case.” Hodges v. Pfizer, Inc., Civ. No. 14-4855-ADM/TNL, 2016 WL 1222229, *2 (D. Minn. March 28, 2016) (internal quotation omitted). Still, the scope of discovery is not unlimited. Courts must limit the frequency or extent of discovery if it determines that “the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive” or if it is “outside the scope permitted by Rule 26(b)(1).” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b). Further, under Rule 26(c), “[t]he court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c).

         Defendant seeks a protective order precluding Plaintiffs from conducting discovery on Defendant's Color Vision Field Test (CVFT”), [1] and shielding Defendant from Plaintiffs' Interrogatory Nos. 23 and 24, which relate to Defendant's CVFT.[2] FRA regulations require that locomotive engineers and conductors have the “ability to recognize and distinguish between the colors of railroad signals.” 49 C.F.R. §240.121(c)(3); 49 C.F.R. § 242.117(h)(3). The regulations provide that examinees who fail one of the FRA-accepted vision tests may be further evaluated by the railroad's medical examiner and permitted to take “another approved scientific screening test or a field test.” 49 C.F.R. § Pt. 240, App. F(4). Defendant uses an FRA-approved testing method, and then uses its CVFT if an examinee fails the FRA-approved test.

         Defendant argues that discovery regarding its CVFT is irrelevant because the Amended Complaint does not mention the CVFT, or allege that it is an unlawful method to examine an employee's vision. Defendant points out that none of the named Plaintiffs suffer from vision issues or have been removed from service based on a failed CVFT. Defendant maintains that the question of whether the CVFT is a valid method to test an individual's color vision has no bearing on the claims in this case. Defendant is not seeking a protective order regarding fitness-for-duty evaluations related to color vision in general, but only as to discovery regarding Defendant's CVFT and whether it is an appropriate mechanism/methodology for use in testing employees' color vision.

         The Court agrees that discovery related to the validity/methodology of Defendant's CVFT is irrelevant to the claims in this suit. This action involves allegations that Defendant excluded Plaintiffs from their positions on the basis of disabilities that had no impact on their ability to perform the essential functions of their jobs. There is no allegation that Defendant uses an improper test in connection with fitness-for-duty evaluations. Therefore, Defendant's Motion for Protective Order will be granted.

         2. Motion to Exclude ...


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