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Rowland v. The Strayer University Corp.

United States District Court, E.D. Tennessee, Knoxville Division

January 9, 2015



H. BRUCE GUYTON, Magistrate Judge.

This case is before the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. ยง 636, the Rules of this Court, and Standing Order 13-02.

Now before the Court is a Motion to Quash Defendant's Subpoenas Seeking Plaintiff's Employment Files from Six (6) of Plaintiff's Previous Employers [Doc. 29]. This motion is fully briefed [see Docs. 31, 33], and the parties appeared before the undersigned on December 16, 2014, to address the motion. The Court finds that the Motion to Quash is ripe for adjudication, and for the reasons stated herein, it will be GRANTED. The Defendant will be permitted to reissue a number of the subpoenas, after reducing the scope of the requested production.


The Plaintiff alleges that he was terminated by the Defendant, his employer, because of his age and/or his sex in 2013. Plaintiff also alleges slander. The Defendant notified the Plaintiff that it intended to serve subpoenas on six (6) different employers that Plaintiff worked for before he was hired by the Defendant, including: the University of Memphis (student worker, 1993-1996); Ideal Chemical (intern, 1997); Brother Corporation (temporary worker, 1997-1998); Mark VII Transportation (supervisor, 1998-2002); Union Planters Bank (manager, 2002-2005); and Kavland (consultant, 2005-2006). Following the filing of the Motion to Quash, the Defendant proposed a subpoena to a seventh employer, CTSI, which employed Plaintiff from approximately 2006 to 2009.

All the subpoenas seek identical information from each of these employers:

All employment related documents and records, including but not limited to, the entire personnel file for Jon Howard Rowland including records held by human resources, managers and/or supervisors related to his hiring, payroll records, counseling, discipline, demotions, promotions, attendance, timecards, vacation and leave requests, and separation from employment. Records containing personal identifying financial information (i.e. direct deposit and bank accounts, etc.) and medical records need not be produced.

[See Doc. 30-1 at 4].


The Plaintiff argues that the information sought by the Defendant is overly broad and unduly burdensome. The Plaintiff argues that the information requested by the subpoenas is limitless. He maintains that the information sought is not related to the subject matter of this litigation, nor is it reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Plaintiff contends that he has standing to move to quash the subpoenas because he has a personal privacy interest in the information sought by the subpoenas. The Plaintiff maintains that the subpoenas constitute a "fishing expedition" and that, to the extent the Defendant seeks relevant, discoverable information, such information could be obtained through less intrusive means, such as interrogatories and the Plaintiff's deposition.

The Defendant responds that the information sought through the subpoenas is relevant to: (1) Plaintiff's alleged economic damages; (2) mitigation of damages; and (3) Defendant's after-acquired evidence defense. [Doc. 31]. The Defendant maintains that Rule 26 provides for broad discovery in employment discrimination cases. It argues that the employment records that pre-date Plaintiff's employment with the Defendant are relevant to this case to determine what skills and training he obtained at those positions and how such skills could have aided in mitigating damages. The Defendant also alleges generally that the subpoenaed records could contain information about whether Plaintiff misrepresented his work experience and education. Defendant argues that it should be awarded reasonable attorney's fees and costs incurred in responding to Plaintiff's motion.


Pursuant to Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court may, for good cause shown, limit or forbid discovery in order "to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(c)(1).

Similarly, the Court is required under Rule 45 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to quash a subpoena that "subjects a person to an undue burden." Fed.R.Civ.P. 45(d)(3). "Rule 45 does not list irrelevance or overbreadth as reasons for quashing a subpoena. Courts, however, have held that the scope of discovery under a subpoena is the same as the scope of discovery ...

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