(CN) – A Pittsburgh federal judge said he is fed up with the “guessing game” and “war of attrition” that has spawned from discovery in a discrimination lawsuit against Ruby Tuesday.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claimed in September 2009 that six Ruby Tuesday restaurants in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio have discriminated against older job candidates.
“Thereafter, there was a flurry of discovery-related motions filed by the defendant seeking to avoid certain discovery, and by the plaintiff seeking to compel it,” U.S. District Judge Mark Hornak said. “On April 20, 2012 and May 4, 2012, the court issued orders granting essentially all of the relief the plaintiff sought and denying the relief sought by defendant.”
But the parties responded to these orders by extending the discovery period to a total of 398 days, during which time Ruby Tuesday would review “several thousand pages of hard copy employment application [sic] and related documents, as well as to take certain follow up actions and discovery regarding identification of claimants.”
Though the parties wanted to extend the deadline to Jan. 29, 2013, Hornak said last week that all remaining fact discovery will be due on due Sept. 30.
“The court is sympathetic to, and cognizant of, the need for the parties to have sufficient time to take the discovery necessary to effectively prosecute and defend their positions,” Hornak wrote. “Each party is well represented by highly experienced and able counsel who are up to this task. At the same time, the court cannot help but observe that to date, the work of the parties, extending over nearly six hundred (600) days, has seemingly generated far more heat than light. The court’s examination of the record and the reports of counsel at the status conference reveal that, notwithstanding considerable latitude having been granted the parties to date, not much productive pretrial work appears to have been accomplished.
“The court is troubled by the fact that nearly three (3) years after this case was filed, the parties are just now engaging in the most basic discovery. It is also a matter of concern that the plaintiff has yet to disclose to the defendant, via initial disclosures or otherwise, the important (if not compelling) factual and other bases upon which the plaintiff makes very serious allegations that the defendant has systematically violated the civil rights of a multitude of job applicants over a long period of time by denying them employment based on their age.” (Parentheses in original.)
Justice will require some additional time for discovery, but that means that the commission must build its case promptly and the restaurant chain likewise should have the same urgency to clear its name, according to the court.
“There are few charges that carry as severe a sting as a claim by a federal agency that the target of those charges has engaged in invidious and unlawful employment discrimination,” Hornak wrote.
“They must focus less on proving a point to one another and more on disclosing and discovering the matters necessary to facilitate resolving this dispute in a timely manner,” he added.
To date, the commission has failed to provide a copy of the statistical study it conducted that allegedly “generates a presumption of unlawful age discrimination,” according to the court.