United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER REGARDING DEFENDANTS'
MOTIONS TO COMPEL PLAINTIFF TO PROVIDE FURTHER ANSWERS TO
INTERROGATORIES (DKT. NO. 39)
KATHERINE A. ROBERTSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
employment discrimination action brought pursuant to Title
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Civil
Rights Act of 1991, Plaintiff, the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission ("EEOC"), asserts claims on
behalf of Stephanie Clarke. The complaint alleges that Ms.
Clarke's employment at Baystate Medical Center
("BMC") and Baystate Health Systems
("BHS") (collectively "Defendants") was
terminated after she declined Defendants' free influenza
vaccination because of her religious beliefs. The complaint
further alleges that Defendants' influenza policy
required Ms. Clarke to wear a mask after she declined
immunization, but the mask prevented her from adequately
performing her job in the human resources
the court is Defendants' motion to compel answers to
interrogatories, which were served on the EEOC pursuant
Fed.R.Civ.P. 33(a). The EEOC has objected to Defendants'
requests on various grounds.
hearing and for the following reasons, Defendants' motion
to compel is ALLOWED to the extent set forth herein.
may be obtained as to any non-privileged material relevant to
any party's claim or defense that is reasonably
calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible
evidence." BPP Retail Props., LLC v. N. Am. Roofing
Servs., Inc., 300 F.R.D. 59, 61 (D.P.R. 2014) (citing
Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1)). "The party resisting discovery
has the burden of showing 'specifically how each
interrogatory is not relevant or how each question is overly
broad, burdensome or oppressive.'" Id.
(quoting Vázquez-Fernández v. Cambridge
Coll., Inc., 269 F.R.D. 150, 155-56 (D.P.R. 2010)
(internal quotation and citation omitted)); Fed.R.Civ.P.
33(b)(4). "Where a response shows that 'the answers
as a whole disclose a conscientious endeavor to understand
the questions and to answer fully those questions as are
proper, [Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(4)] has been
Vázquez-Fernández, 269 F.R.D. at 155
(quoting Sánchez-Medina v. UNICCO Serv. Co.,
265 F.R.D. 24, 27 (D.P.R. 2009)). If a party withholds
otherwise discoverable information on the basis of privilege,
the party must, "'(i) expressly make the claim; and
(ii) describe the nature of the documents, communications, or
tangible things not produced or disclosed - and do so in a
manner that, without revealing information itself privileged
or protected, will enable other parties to assess the
claim.'" BPP Retail Props., LLC, 300 F.R.D.
at 61 (citing Rivera v. Kmart Corp., 190 F.R.D. 298,
300 (D.P.R. 2000)); see Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(5)(A).
"If the responding party fails to object or state the
reason for the objection timely, he or she may be held to
have waived any objection." BPP Retail Props.,
LLC, 300 F.R.D. at 61 (citing Rivera, 190
F.R.D. at 300).
interrogatories that are the subject of their motion to
compel can be divided into the following categories: (1) Ms.
Clarke's religious beliefs (BSH Interrogatory Nos. 3, 4,
5, 6, 7, 15) (BMC Interrogatory Nos. 2, 5, 6); (2) Ms.
Clarke's performance of her job while wearing a mask (BSH
Interrogatory Nos. 11, 16) (BMC Interrogatory Nos. 9, 11);
(3) the EEOC's claim that Defendants' influenza
immunization policy was implemented with malice or reckless
indifference to Ms. Clarke's rights (BSH Interrogatory
No. 13); and (4) BMC's claim that it was not Ms.
Clarke's employer (BMC Interrogatory Nos. 3 and 4). Each
category will be discussed in turn.
Discovery Concerning Ms. Clarke's Religious
VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from
discriminating against employees on the basis of, among other
things, religion." Cloutier v. Costco Wholesale
Corp., 390 F.3d 126, 133 (1st Cir. 2004) (citing 42
U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)). The statute defines the term
"religion" to include: "all aspects of
religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless
an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably
accommodate to an employee's or prospective
employee's religious observance or practice without undue
hardship on the conduct of the employer's business."
42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j). "[I]n general terms, Title
VII requires employers . . . to accommodate, within
reasonable limits, the bona fide religious beliefs and
practices of employees." E.E.O.C. v. Unión
Independiente de la Autoridad de Acueductos y Alcantarillados
de P. R., 279 F.3d 49, 55 (1st Cir. 2002). "The
First Circuit applies 'a two-part framework in analyzing
religious discrimination claims under Title VII.'"
Robinson v. Children's Hosp. Bos., Civil Action
No. 14-10263-DJC, 2016 WL 1337255, at *5 (D. Mass. Apr. 5,
2016), appeal dismissed sub nom. Robinson v.
Children's Hosp. of Bos., No. 16-1495 (1st Cir. Feb.
23, 2017) (quoting Sánchez-Rodríguez v. AT
& T Mobility P. R., Inc., 673 F.3d 1, 12 (1st Cir.
2012)). First, the plaintiff must make a "'prima
facie case that a bona fide religious practice conflicts
with an employment requirement and was the reason for the
adverse employment action.'"
Sánchez-Rodríguez, 673 F.3d at 12
(quoting Cloutier, 390 F.3d at 133). "Second,
once the plaintiff has established [a] prima facie
case, the burden shifts to the employer to show that 'it
offered a reasonable accommodation or that a
reasonable accommodation would be an undue burden.'"
Robinson, 2016 WL 1337255, at *5 (quoting
Sánchez-Rodríguez, 673 F.3d at 12).
requirement that the employee have a 'bona fide religious
belief' is an essential element of a religious
accommodation claim." Unión
Independiente, 279 F.3d at 55-56. "Title VII does
not mandate an employer . . . to accommodate what amounts to
a "'purely personal preference.'"
Id. at 56 (quoting Vetter v. Farmland Indus.,
Inc., 120 F.3d 749, 751 (8th Cir. 1997)). In order to
satisfy the bona fide religious belief element, "the
plaintiff must demonstrate both that the belief or practice
is religious and that it is sincerely held." Id. See
Redmond v. GAF Corp., 574 F.2d 897, 901 n.12 (7th Cir.
1978). "Title VII's capacious definition of
'religion' includes 'all aspects of religious
observance and practice, as well as belief . . . .'"
Unión Independiente, 279 F.3d at 56 (quoting
42 U.S.C. § 2000e(j)); see also 29 C.F.R.
§ 1605.1 ("[R]eligious practices . . . include
moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong which
are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious
views. . . . The fact that no religious group espouses such
beliefs or the fact that the religious group to which the
individual professes to belong may not accept such belief
will not determine whether the belief is a religious belief
of the employee or prospective employee.").
beliefs protected by Title VII need not be 'acceptable,
logical, consistent, or comprehensible to others . .
.'" but they must be sincerely held.
Unión Independiente, 279 F.3d at 56 (quoting
Thomas v. Review Bd. of Ind. Emp't. Sec. Div.,
450 U.S. 707, 714 (1981)). "The element of sincerity is
fundamental, since 'if the religious beliefs that
apparently prompted a request are not sincerely held, there
has been no showing of a religious observance or practice
that conflicts with an employment requirement.'"
Id. (quoting E.E.O.C. v. Ilona of Hungary,
Inc., 108 F.3d 1569, 1575 (7th Cir. 1997)).
"it is well recognized that courts are poor arbiters of
questions regarding what is religious and what is not, "
Cloutier v. Costco Wholesale, 311 F.Supp.2d 190, 196
(D. Mass.), aff'd on other grounds sub nom. Cloutier
v. Costco Wholesale Corp., 390 F.3d 126 (1st Cir. 2004)
(citing Daniels v. City of Arlington,246 F.3d 500,
505 (5th Cir. 2001)), it remains the fact that the EEOC bears