Northern District Denies Discovery of Class Member Identities on Privacy Grounds

by charlesjung

[Bob Burman, race car driver] (LOC)
Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

The United States District Court for the Northern District of California denied the production of names, addresses and telephone numbers of non-opt-in members of a FLSA collective and putative Labor Code class action.  Hill v. R+L Carriers Shared Services, LLC, No. C 09-1907 CW (MEJ), 2010 WL 4175958 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 20, 2010).  Plaintiff Glenn Hill is a former employee of Defendant R+L Carriers Shared Services, LLC, which provides administrative employees to transportation companies all across the United States.  Id. *1. Plaintiff worked as a “dispatcher” at Defendant’s San Lorenzo terminal in California, and brought a collective and class action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), California’s wage-and-hour laws and California Business & Professions Code section 17200. Id.


Plaintiff sought two sub-classes: those employees in California and those that he refers to as a Nationwide Collective.  Id. The California Class is defined as “all persons who worked for any period of time in California who were classified as Dispatchers (including “City Dispatchers” and any other position(s) who are either called, or work(ed) as, dispatchers) in the four years prior to the filing of this Complaint, up through the final disposition of this action.” Id. In Defendant contended that a collective action under the FLSA is improper because the job duties, work schedules, and salary of its employees varies across the United States, as well as in the State of California. Id.

Hon. Claudia Wilken, the presiding judge in this matter, conditionally certified a class of Nationwide Collective Plaintiffs.  Judge Wilken also ordered Defendant to “disclose to Plaintiff, subject to a protective order if necessary, the number, location and actual job titles of persons who are classified as dispatchers.”  Id. Defendant provided the class members’ contact information to a third-party administrator, who propounded notice to all putative class members.  Id. Defendant also disclosed the number, location and actual job titles of putative class members to Plaintiff. Id. Two California putative members subsequently opted into the case. Id.

Motions to Compel

Plaintiff sought production of names, addresses and telephone numbers of “dispatcher employees” in California who have opted out, arguing that they are necessary for supporting its motion for class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. Id. Plaintiff argued that although he has the number, location and actual job titles of putative California Class members as of February, he needs updated information of non-opt-in plaintiffs to address numerosity issues in the class certification motion. Id. Plaintiff also insisted that he needs to interview non-opt-in plaintiffs for whom Defendant has declarations.  Plaintiff also sought production of Performance Management memos, which are one-page lists of all the “dispatcher” positions at Defendant’s terminals in California, so that Plaintiff can acquire a better understanding of Defendant’s “dispatcher job positions.”  Id. *2.

Defendant refused to provide the contact information directly to Plaintiff, citing privacy grounds. Id. Defendant argued that it has an obligation to maintain privacy of the employees who expressly chose not to opt-in, and that Plaintiff does not need contact information of non-opt-in individuals.  Id. Defendant admitted that it has declarations of both opt-ins and non-opt-ins regarding their job duties. Id. As to the Performance Management memos, Defendant refused to produce them on grounds of relevance and confidentiality. Id. Defendant further contended that the discovery requests should be denied in order to prevent Plaintiff’s council from soliciting clients. Id.

The court conducted a balancing of Plaintiff’s discovery rights against the opt-out individuals’ privacy rights, citing to Tierno v. Rite Aid Corp., No. C 05-02520 TEH, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 58748, at *7 (N.D.Cal. July 31, 2008) and Pioneer Electronics, Inc. v. Superior Court, 40 Cal.4th 360, 370-71, 53 Cal.Rptr.3d 513, 150 P.3d 198 (2007):

Here, the Court notes that Plaintiff needs to examine the declarations to assist in effectively preparing their class certification motion, because they refer to the job duties of “dispatchers.” Plaintiff also needs access to the updated number, location and actual job titles of the “dispatchers” for addressing numerosity issues. However, considering the third parties’ privacy rights and the history of discovery disputes in this case, (Dkt.# 203), the Court finds it inappropriate to order Defendant to provide the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of non-opt-in plaintiffs at this point. If, after reviewing the declarations, Plaintiff still finds it necessary to contact non-opt-in plaintiffs, the parties shall meet and confer, and file a joint letter if necessary.

As to the Performance Management memos, the Court finds Plaintiff is entitled to review the memos which refer to the “dispatcher job positions” of Defendant’s terminals in California. As Plaintiff does not have clear view on how many “dispatcher” positions Defendant has in California, he needs to examine the memos in order to effectively classify California Class members in his class certification motion. However, because the memos contain irrelevant employees’ names and job titles, the Court orders Defendant to redact the names of persons who are not classified as “dispatchers.”

Judges and Attorneys

United States Chief Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James.

Robert S. Nelson, Nelson Law Group, San Bruno, CA, for Plaintiff.

Charles Oliver Thompson, Esq., Jill Vogt Cartwright, Melynnie Anne Rizvi, Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, San Francisco, CA, Ellis B. Murov, Deutsch Kerrigan Stiles, New Orleans, LA, O. Judson Scheaf, III, Anthony C. White, Thompson Hine LLP, Columbus, OH, for Defendant.