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Williams v. Sweet Home Healthcare, LLC

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 26, 2017

TINA WILLIAMS,, Plaintiffs,
SWEET HOME HEALTHCARE, LLC, et al., Defendants.


          SCHILLER, J.

         Sweet Home Healthcare and Sweet Home Primary Care employed Plaintiffs as health care workers. Plaintiffs filed this lawsuit on behalf of themselves and other home health care workers employed by Sweet Home, alleging Defendants failed to pay overtime. Before the Court is Defendants' motion to compel answers to interrogatories and requests for production of documents. After thoroughly examining each of the disputed requests, the Court will grant the motion in part and deny it in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs are direct care workers and home health aides employed by Defendants. (Pls.' Mem. Law Opp'n Defs.' Mot. Compel [hereinafter Pls.' Resp.] 1.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants did not properly pay overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act (“PMWA”). (Id.) The parties dispute whether Defendants should have classified Plaintiffs as employees or as independent contractors. (Mem. Law Supp. Defs.' Mot. Compel [hereinafter Defs.' Mot. Compel] 2-3.)

         Defendants were originally represented by Bochetto & Lentz, but obtained new counsel on April 14, 2017. (Entry of Appearance, ECF No. 32.) Defendants' new counsel served identical requests for documents on each named plaintiff on the same day. (Defs.' Mot. Compel 3.) On April 18, 2017, Defendants served identical interrogatories on each named plaintiff. (Id.) Plaintiffs responded with similar objections to the document requests and interrogatories on May 17 and May 18, respectively. (Id.) Fact discovery closes on July 17, 2017. (Ct.'s Order, ECF No. 40.)

         After Plaintiffs' allegedly insufficient answers, Defendants filed a motion to compel on May 26, 2017. Among Defendants' discovery requests, Defendants' Interrogatories, No. 4, asks Plaintiffs to disclose their damage calculation. (Defs.' Mot. Compel Ex. 3, ¶ 4.) In response, Plaintiffs state the damages “can be summarized as the failure to pay them the time and one-half owed to them for hours worked over forty in a work week.” (Id.) Plaintiffs also provided Defendants with a spreadsheet created from personnel records disclosed by Defendants to Plaintiffs. As a supplement to the spreadsheet, Plaintiffs submitted a declaration by Amy R. Brandt, counsel for Plaintiffs, cataloging how she created the spreadsheet. (Defs.' Mot. Recons. Protective Order Ex. 1.) In response, Defendants noticed Brandt for a deposition, referring to paragraphs 6, 7, and 19 of her declaration and purportedly treating Brandt as a damages expert. (Pls.' Mot. Protective Order Ex. 1.) Plaintiffs subsequently filed a motion for a protective order to quash the notice of deposition. The Court entered the protective order on June 7, 2017, and Defendants' moved the Court to reconsider on June 13, 2017.


         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 governs the discovery process. This process allows the parties to obtain “any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). “Relevance in this context has been ‘construed broadly to encompass any matter that could bear on, or that could reasonably lead to other matter that could bear on any issue that is or may be in the case.'” United States ex rel. Bergman v. Abbott Labs., Civ. A. No. 09-4264, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106065, at *7-8 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 11, 2016) (quoting Oppenheimer Fund v. Sanders, 437 U.S. 340, 351 (1978)). The scope of discovery is broad, but it is not unlimited. See Bayer AG v. Betachem, Inc., 173 F.3d 188, 191 (3d Cir. 1999).

         “[W]here a party receives evasive or incomplete answers to a discovery request, they are permitted to bring a motion to compel disclosure” under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37. In re Auto. Refinishing Paint Antitrust Litig., MDL No. 1426, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 34129, at *6 (E.D. Pa. May 26, 2006). “The party resisting disclosure bears the burden of persuasion.” Id. Objections must “specifically” show how the request is not relevant, or is overly broad, burdensome, or oppressive. Josephs v. Harris Corp., 677 F.2d 985, 992 (3d Cir. 1982) (quotation marks omitted).


         A. Plaintiffs' Objections

         Plaintiffs object to Defendants' discovery requests for several reasons. First, Plaintiffs challenge many requests as “irrelevant.” Second, Plaintiffs object to certain requests because the information is in the possession of Defendants. Third, Plaintiffs claim some of the requests are “overbroad” and “unduly burdensome.” Fourth, Plaintiffs argue that disclosure of tax returns and bank account records is improper due to confidentiality concerns. Fifth, Plaintiffs assert attorney-client privilege for two contested requests. Finally, the Court will narrow several of Defendants' requests.

         1. Relevance

         Discovery is significantly more broad than just evidence admissible at trial; it includes relevant information that is proportional to the needs of the case. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). In FLSA cases, “courts determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor . . . look to the economic realities of the relationship between the alleged employer and employee.” Verma v. 3001 Castor, Inc., Civ. A. No. 13-3034, 2014 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 88459, at *15-16 (E.D. Pa. June 30, 2014) (citing Donovan v. DialAmerica Mktg., Inc., 757 F.2d 1376, 1382-83 (3d Cir. 1985)). “Pennsylvania courts also undertake a fact-intensive, multi-factor examination” referred to as the “economic ...

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