United States District Court, D. Kansas
JAMES CADY and JOHN WRAY, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
R&B SERVICES WICHITA, LLC, R&B SERVICES HOLDINGS, LLC, SCOTT M. RYAN, STEPHEN D. BLASDEL, and RYAN BLASDEL, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
KAREN M. HUMPHREYS, Magistrate Judge.
This matter is before the court on plaintiffs' motion to compel discovery responses (Doc. 28). On March 25, 2014, the court conducted a telephone conference to discuss and clarify the issues presented in the briefs. Plaintiffs appeared through counsel, Sean McGivern and Nathan Elliott. Defendants appeared through counsel, Molly Gordon. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiffs' motion shall be GRANTED.
Plaintiffs are former employees of defendants' EconoLube auto service shop in Wichita, Kansas. James Cady was employed from approximately 2009 to July 2013, first as a technician and later as a shop manager. John Wray was employed as a technician from approximately 2010 to July 2012. In addition to EconoLube, the defendants own and operate four Meineke Car Care Centers in both Kansas and Oklahoma. Defendants admit that each business shares a common ownership structure: a partnership between Ron Ryan, Stephen Blasdel, Scott Ryan and Ryan Blasdel.
Plaintiffs claim that they and the putative class members are those non-exempt employees of defendants who worked more than 40 hours per workweek and were compensated with bonuses or commissions that were not factored into their regular rates, or were not paid for all hours worked. Plaintiffs allege that these pay practices violate the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 ("FLSA"), 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq . Plaintiffs contend that defendants applied the same compensation policies to other employees throughout their automobile service enterprise and seek certification as a collective action under 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).
Defendants assert that the method and manner of compensation differs between the Econolube where the plaintiffs were employed and other franchises operated by the defendants, and that any collective action is inappropriate because the purported plaintiffs are not similarly situated. Defendants deny any FLSA violations.
Plaintiffs' Motion to Compel (Doc. 28)
In November 2013, plaintiffs served the corporate defendants with their First Set of Interrogatories and First Requests for Production of Documents. Defendants timely provided initial responses to both sets of requests and the parties exchanged correspondence regarding defendants' objections and lack of responses. Defendants later provided supplemental responses only as to the named plaintiffs. Upon review of the parties' correspondence and counsel's reports during the March 25, 2014 telephone conference, the court finds that the parties have adequately conferred as required by D. Kan. Rule 37.2. As explained in greater detail below, plaintiffs request that the court order defendants to identify putative class members and produce evidence of pay practices concerning those employees.
I. Legal Standards
Defendants' objections focus on relevance. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b) states that "[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party.... Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Relevance is broadly construed at the discovery stage and discovery relevance is minimal relevance,  which means a request should be deemed relevant if there is any possibility that the request will lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
The party requesting discovery bears the low burden of showing the request to be relevant on its face, but after facial relevance is established, the burden shifts to the party resisting discovery. "The party opposing discovery is required to come forth with more than a mere conclusory statement that the discovery is irrelevant and must specifically demonstrate how the request is not reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." The decision to grant a motion to compel is a matter of discretion for the court. "Courts should lean towards resolving doubt over relevance in favor of discovery."
Section 216(b) collective actions "require a broader scope of discovery in order to identify those employees who may be similarly situated, and who may therefore ultimately seek to opt into the action." The United States Supreme Court in Hoffman-LaRoche v. Sperling  allowed plaintiff to discover the names and addresses of all similarly situated employees. Following the Supreme Court's lead, other judges in this district have allowed plaintiffs to discover identifying information about other potential plaintiffs. As reasoned by Judge Waxse in Hammond v. Lowe's Homes Centers ,
Although these interrogatories seek information on employees presently not parties to this litigation, the opt-in provision of the FLSA requires some procedure for identifying and notifying the potential class members. The first step is to identify those employees who may be similarly situated and who may therefore ultimately seek to opt into the action.
Therefore, relevance in this proposed collective action includes those requests that would lead to the discovery of admissible evidence tending to show that the putative class members were ...