Court Declines to Order Production of Plaintiff’s Tax Returns in Race/Sex Hostile Work Environment Case

In Black v. Buffalo Meat Serv., Inc., No. 15CV49S, 2017 WL 1196469 (W.D.N.Y. Mar. 31, 2017) – a race/sex hostile work environment and constructive discharge case – the court ruled on the parties’ respective discovery motions.

The facts, as summarized by the court:

Plaintiff claims that defendants created a hostile work environment on the basis of race and sex and had constructively discharged her. … [Plaintiff claims that male coworkers were paid more than she was and were allowed more breaks than she was; that her coworkers made sexual and racial comments; that the shop rejected African American applicants (although plaintiff is a Caucasian female); and a coworker allegedly made comments regarding her biracial children.

Defendants moved to compel the production of plaintiff’s joint tax returns; plaintiff argued that her production of W-2 statements was sufficient. The court agreed with plaintiff.

“Tax returns need not be produced unless: (1) it clearly appears that they are relevant to the subject matter of the action or to the issues raised thereunder; and (2) there is a compelling need for their disclosure because the information contained in the tax returns is not otherwise readily available.”

Applying the law, the court explained:

[P]laintiff’s earnings are relevant to her lost wages claims and her Equal Pay Act claims, but there are other sources for plaintiff’s earning, such as the sought W-2 statements. … There is no need for plaintiff to produce her joint tax returns, which she argued did not distinguish her spouse’s income from her own. W-2 statements clearly would state her earnings for a particular year and employer(s). The entire tax return contains otherwise extraneous information that should not be produced.

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