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State Street to Get Fees for Workers’ ‘Willful’ Discovery Delays

Nov. 25, 2020, 7:02 PM

Three workers and an attorney suing State Street Bank & Trust Co. for alleged sex and age bias must reimburse the bank for legal fees and expenses it’s tallied in pursuing discovery because of repeated Covid-19 and other delays, the Southern District of New York said.

Judge Gregory H. Woods declined to grant State Street’s request for “the ultimate sanction of dismissal” of the March 2019 suit by Ksenia Shnyra, Alexander Reyngold, and Kenneth Walker. But he warned that it “may not be the last” time the workers and their counsel will need to be sanctioned.

Future sanctions for a continued failure to comply with discovery demands and court orders could even result in dismissal of the workers’ claims under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act;, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and New York state and city anti-bias laws, Woods said Tuesday.

The ruling came 18 moths after the suit was filed and six months into the discovery schedule, yet the plaintiffs are only now reviewing documents for production to their attorney for his review, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York said.

They also still haven’t set forth a plan for completing discovery in a reasonable time, despite Woods delaying the start of discovery by two months at the request of plaintiff’s counsel as a result of the pandemic, the court said.

Defense counsel was forced to repeatedly try to chase down the workers’ attorney, who requested multiple extensions but still missed deadlines for producing information relating to the suit by State Street, the court said.

The court rejected the contention that State Street hasn’t been prejudiced by the delays. Those delays were willful, it said, citing counsel’s “multiple, morphing justifications.” These included Covid-19 sweeping through his entire family, a car accident in which his wife was seriously injured, another medical condition he experienced that required surgery, communications issues with his clients, state and city lockdown orders, and “long-delayed family getaway from NYC,” the court said.

The court express “great empathy for the health-related issues raised” by plaintiff’s counsel, but said the continued recalcitrance meant the workers also waived any right to object to State Street’s discovery demands.

The lawsuit accuses State Street of firing a whole department to conceal its discriminatory reasons for getting rid of Shnyra, Reyngold, and Walker.

Lumen Law represents the workers. Nixon Peabody LLP represents State Street.

The case is Shnyra v. State St. Bank & Trust Co., 2020 BL 457594, S.D.N.Y., No. 1:19-cv-2420, 11/24/20.

To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at pdorrian@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com

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