United States District Court, W.D. Virginia, Roanoke Division
TIFFANY S. BROWN, Plaintiff,
MOUNTAINVIEW CUTTERS, LLC, d/b/a GREAT CLIPS, Defendant.
GLEN E. CONRAD, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Tiffany S. Brown brings this employment discrimination action
against her former employer, Mountainview Cutters, LLC d/b/a
Great Clips ("Great Clips"). The case is presently
before the court on Brown's motion to quash the subpoenas
duces tecum issued by Great Clips to several third parties.
For the following reasons, the motion will be granted in part
and denied in part.
S. Brown is an African-American woman. At the time of her
employment, she was the only African-American employee at
Great Clips. Brown believes that she was subjected to unequal
terms and conditions of employment because of her race.
Specifically, she claims that she was treated less favorably
than her Caucasian coworkers with respect to
"scheduling, time off, and being allowed to work enough
hours to earn paid vacation." Compl. ¶ 7.
occasion, Brown's manager, Tim Phillips, gave a client a
coupon for discount services at the salon. However, when
Brown gave a coupon to another client, a note was posted on
the register stating, "Great Clips is here to make money
and you are making us less money[.]" Id. ¶
August of 2012, a Caucasian coworker called Brown an
"angry black woman." Id. Â¶ 10. Brown
complained to her manager about the incident. On another
occasion, Phillips scheduled a dinner for all of the
employees. Although Brown was invited to the dinner, she was
not told that the employees would be meeting at the salon
beforehand. After Brown waited at the restaurant for more
than 45 minutes, Phillips and the other employees arrived and
laughed at her.
about December 2, 2012, after two employees made transactions
under her name, Brown called the general manager, told her
about "some of the irregularities at the salon, "
and said that she was being discriminated against.
Id. ¶ 13. In a document dated December 2, 2012,
Phillips stated that Brown had threatened him with
discrimination. Thereafter, a posting at the salon indicated
that certain matters would be discussed at a meeting between
the employees and the owner of Great Clips. Brown then added
"EEOC" to the list of topics to be discussed at
this meeting. On December 4, 2012, Phillips informed Brown
that he would be terminating her employment. Phillips
indicated that he felt "backed into a corner"
because Brown called Phillips' boss without notifying him
first. Id. ¶ 15.
filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC") on April 5, 2013.
Upon receiving a right-to-sue letter from the EEOC on January
29, 2015, Brown filed suit in this court under Title VII of
the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"),
alleging that Great Clips discriminated against her on the
basis of her race, and that she was terminated in retaliation
for her discrimination complaints. On March 28, 2016, Great
Clips issued subpoenas duces tecum to Brown's previous
employers, subsequent employer, and the Virginia Employment
Commission ("VEC"). On April 4, 2016, Brown moved
to quash these subpoenas. The court held a hearing on the
motion via conference call on May 3, 2016. The motion has
been fully briefed and is ripe for disposition.
addressing the merits of Brown's motion, the court must
first determine whether she has standing to attempt to quash
the subpoenas duces tecum issued by Great Clips to third
parties. "Ordinarily, a party does not have standing to
challenge a subpoena issued to a nonparty unless the party
claims some personal right or privilege in the information
sought by the subpoena." United States v.
Idema, 118 F.App'x 740, 744 (4th Cir. 2005). The
United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit,
however, has not decided whether an employee has a sufficient
personal right with respect to the information contained in
her employment records to confer standing. Nevertheless, this
court is more persuaded by the authorities that have held
that such personal right does exist.
hearing, Brown relied on Singletary v. Sterling Transport
Co., in which the district court found that an employee
did have standing to challenge the subpoenas duces tecum that
sought employment records from his former employers. 289
F.R.D. 237, 240 (E.D. Va. 2012). In reaching its decision,
the district court noted that "numerous courts from
within a wide variety of circuits have approved the existence
of such a right and have held that such parties have standing
to challenge subpoenas directed to their former
employers." Id. at 239. The district court also
found the case of Barrington v. Mortage IT. Inc.,
No. 07-61304-CIV, 2007 WL 4370647, at *2 (S.D. Fla. Dec. 10,
2007) to be especially persuasive. In Barrington,
the district court cited to a number of cases which support
the argument that employees have a personal right in their
employment records. 2007 WL 4370647, at *2. The district
court in Barrington also noted that employment
records are/likely to contain "highly personal and
confidential information, such as social security numbers,
medical information protected from disclosure under various
federal and state laws, payroll information, income tax
information, and information about family members."
Id. Therefore, the district court held that the
employees had standing to move to quash the subpoenas duces
tecum directed to their former employers. Id. This
court notes that several courts both within and outside of
the Fourth Circuit have cited to Singletary in
finding that employees have standing to challenge subpoenas
seeking employment records. See, e.g.,
Papanicolas v. Project Execution & Control
Consulting, LLC, No. CBD-12-1579, 2015 WL 1242755, at *1
(D. Md. Mar. 17, 2015): Bahrami v. Maxie Price
Chevrolet-Oldsmobile Inc.. No. 1:11-CV-4483-SCJ-AJB,
2013 WL 3800336, at *2 (N.D.Ga. June 19, 2013); Robinson
v. Quicken Loans. Inc.. No. 3:12-CV-00981, 2012 WL
6045836, at *2 (S.D.W.Va. Dec. 5, 2012).
addition, even if the court could find that Brown did not
have standing to move to quash the subpoenas under Rule 45 of
the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, she would still have
standing under Rule 26 to challenge the subpoenas as
irrelevant and overbroad. See Singletary. 289 F.R.D.
at 240 n.2 ("Additionally, the Court notes that
plaintiffs have standing to challenge the subpoenas duces
tecum as irrelevant and overbroad under Rule 26, regardless
of whether they have standing to bring a motion to quash
under Rule 45."); see also Sirpal v. Wang, No.
WDQ-12-0365, 2012 WL 2880565, at *4 n.12 (D. Md. Jul. 12,
2012) (construing plaintiffs motion to quash as one for a
protective order under Rule 26 and using relevance and
overbreath to quash the subpoena at issue). Although Brown
has not explicitly moved for a protective order in her
instant motion, her essential challenges to the subpoenas are
that they are overbroad and irrelevant to the claims and
defenses in this case. Accordingly, the court concludes that
Brown has standing to bring this motion to quash.