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Nelson v. Wal-Mart Stores

November 20, 2006

DARYAL T. NELSON AND TOMMY ARMSTRONG, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED PLAINTIFFS
v.
WAL-MART STORES, INC; WAL-MART TRANSPORTATION LLC DEFENDANTS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Wm. R.Wilson,Jr. United States District Judge

ORDER

Pending is Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel (Doc. No. 81). Defendants have responded (Doc. No. 83). The parties also have submitted letters to the Court concerning two other discovery issues.

First, Plaintiffs have served Defendants with a 30(b)(6) notice of deposition related to Defendants' distribution centers, which Defendants have objected to on the grounds that the Court has still not decided Plaintiffs' April 2006 Motion to Compel.

Second, Plaintiffs seek the application files for all the over-the-road truck drivers hired at 22 of the transportation offices during the period of 2000 to the present. Because both of those requests involve information relevant to the plaintiffs' claims, the requests are granted.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs challenge Wal-Mart's hiring practices for over-the-road truck drivers for its transportation offices. The core issue in the motion to compel and the follow-up letters is whether the scope of discovery to be expanded into Wal-Mart's hiring practices at its distribution centers.

Wal-Mart's Logistics Division*fn1 is divided into two subdivisions: (1) the Transportation Division in charge of Wal-Mart's truck fleet and its support; and (2) the Distribution Division in charge of the distribution centers that the trucking fleet services. There are 41 field transportation offices in Wal-Mart's Transportation Division.*fn2 Every transportation office is located onsite at one of the distribution centers it services.*fn3 The transportation offices have their own management structure, including a general transportation manager in charge of each office and a personnel manager who, together with the general transportation manager, is responsible for hiring over-the-road truck drivers.*fn4 The general transportation manager and personnel manager report to regional managers, who in turn report to either the East or West Transportation Division Vice President.*fn5 Those Vice Presidents report to the Senior Vice President of Transportation, who reports directly to the Executive Vice President of Logistics.*fn6

The distribution centers are under the Distribution Division. They have a managerial structure apart from the transportation offices and report to a chain of higher-ups separate from the transportation offices.*fn7 Each distribution center, for instance, has a general manager who reports to a regional vice president for the distribution centers.*fn8 The distribution centers, like the transportation offices, are ultimately accountable to the officers of the Logistics Division.

Wal-Mart's Diversity Office-a corporate-level office-has established Diversity Goals for the Logistics Division. For the transportation offices, the general transportation managers must meet good faith efforts, i.e. set up a diversity mentoring program and go to three diversity conferences a year.*fn9 In contrast, the general managers of the distribution centers, while having to meet good faith efforts, also have diversity hiring goals for entry-level warehouse positions.*fn10

Edward Parrish, the human resources director for the Transportation Division, recommended that Wal-Mart set diversity hiring goals for truck drivers in the transportation offices, but that recommendation was summarily rejected.*fn11

In the Motion to Compel, Plaintiffs asked for information on the diversity hiring goals for positions in the distribution centers, how those goals were developed, how Wal-Mart determines that those goals are met, the starting salary and benefits package for each of those positions, and electronic data related to those positions including name, address, race data, hire date, age data, address, and employment location. Defendants objected to providing that information. On May 4, 2006, Defendants were directed to provide Plaintiffs with a definitive statement describing whether the warehouse operations of Wal-Mart's Logistics Division have conducted studies setting forth the racial makeup of its warehouse workforce; whether Wal-Mart has established numeric or other goals relating to the warehouse workforce; and whether Wal-Mart has conducted any studies or investigations related to relevant census data concerning the warehouse operations. Wal-Mart responded to that order by stating that it had not conducted any "non-privileged" studies setting forth the racial makeup of its warehouse workforce*fn12 ; that it had established goals relating to entry-level positions at its distribution centers from May 31, 2004, to October 31, 2004, and from November 1, 2004, to October 31, 2005; and that it had not conducted any studies or investigations related to relevant census data concerning warehouse operations.*fn13

II. ANALYSIS

Resolution of discovery issues are within the sound discretion of the district court, reviewable only for abuse of discretion.*fn14 Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), parties may obtain discovery regarding any non-privileged ...


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