Wellens et al v. Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.

Filing 102

Order by Magistrate Judge Donna M. Ryu denying 69 Discovery Letter Brief.(dmrlc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 4/11/2014)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 SARA WELLENS, 12 13 No. C-13-00581 DMR ORDER RE: JOINT DISCOVERY LETTER [DOCKET NO. 69] Plaintiff(s), v. 14 DAIICHI SANKYO INC, 15 Defendant(s). ___________________________________/ 16 17 Before the court is a joint discovery letter filed by Plaintiffs and Defendant Daiichi Sankyo, 18 Inc. [Docket No. 69.] Defendant seeks to take the deposition of ten women who have opted in to the 19 putative Equal Pay Act class alleged in this case. Defendant also seeks responses to written 20 discovery from a total of seventeen opt-ins. Plaintiffs have filed a motion for conditional 21 certification of the Equal Pay Act class (see Docket No. 78) and oppose the discovery at this time. 22 Defendant now moves to compel this discovery. 23 24 I. BACKGROUND A. Factual Allegations 25 Defendant manufactures and sells cardiovascular, diabetes, and metastatic melanoma 26 therapies and pharmaceuticals. Compl. [Docket No. 1] ¶ 1. Plaintiffs are current and former female 27 sales employees of Defendant. Id. ¶¶ 14-19. Plaintiffs bring class and collective claims alleging 28 violations of Title VII, California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the Equal Pay Act, the 1 California Equal Pay Act, and the California Unfair Business Practices Act, in their individual 2 capacities, and on behalf of certain current, former, and future female sales employees of Defendant. 3 See generally Compl. 4 Plaintiffs aver that the putative class consists of approximately 1,500 female sales 5 employees. Docket No. 64 at 3. Plaintiffs list approximately ninety of these putative class members 6 in their Initial Disclosures. Id. Seventeen putative class members have already opted into this case. 7 Letter at 1. 8 B. Motion for Conditional Class Certification conditional class certification. [Docket No. 78.] The motion includes thirty-one declarations, six 11 For the Northern District of California On March 6, 2014, after the instant discovery letter was filed, Plaintiffs filed a motion for 10 United States District Court 9 from the named Plaintiffs and 25 from former or current employees. 12 13 II. LEGAL STANDARD Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26 provides that a party may obtain discovery “regarding 14 any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). 15 “Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably 16 calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). “Relevancy, 17 for the purposes of discovery, is defined broadly, although it is not without ultimate and necessary 18 boundaries.” Gonzales v. Google, Inc., 234 F.R.D. 674, 679-80 (N.D. Cal. 2006). “District courts 19 have broad discretion to control the class certification process, and whether or not discovery will be 20 permitted lies within the sound discretion of the trial court.” Vinole v. Countrywide Home Loans, 21 Inc., 571 F.3d 935, 942 (9th Cir. 2009) (citations omitted). 22 23 III. DISCUSSION Defendant argues that the requested discovery will assist the court in determining the motion 24 for conditional class certification because it will shed light on whether the opt-in Plaintiffs are 25 similarly situated. Plaintiffs respond that discovery regarding opt-in Plaintiffs is premature, and 26 urge the court to delay the discovery until after the motion for conditional class certification has 27 been determined. 28 2 1 “To maintain a collective action under the [Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”)]1 a plaintiff 2 must demonstrate that the putative collective action members are similarly situated.” Harris v. 3 Vector Mktg. Corp., 716 F. Supp. 2d 835, 837 (N.D. Cal. 2010) (quotation omitted). In this district, 4 courts use a two-step process in making this determination: 5 6 7 8 9 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 12 13 Neither the FLSA nor the Ninth Circuit have defined “similarly situated.” But a majority of courts have adopted a two-step approach for determining whether a class is “similarly situated.” Under this approach, a district court first determines, based on the submitted pleadings and affidavits, whether the proposed class should be notified of the action. At the first stage, the determination of whether the putative class members will be similarly situated is made using a fairly lenient standard, and typically results in “conditional certification” of a representative class. District courts have held that conditional certification requires only that plaintiffs make substantial allegations that the putative class members were subject to a single illegal policy, plan or decision. The second-step usually occurs after discovery is complete, at which time the defendants may move to decertify the class. In this step, the court makes a factual determination about whether the plaintiffs are similarly situated by weighing such factors as (1) the disparate factual and employment settings of the individual plaintiffs, (2) the various defenses available to the defendant which appeared to be individual to each plaintiff, and (3) fairness and procedural considerations. If the district court determines that the plaintiffs are not similarly situated, the court may decertify the class and dismiss the opt-in plaintiffs’ action without prejudice. 14 15 16 Harris, 716 F. Supp. 2d at 837 (citations omitted). In applying this two-step approach, some courts have held that the plaintiff bears a “very 17 light burden in substantiating allegations at this stage.” Prentice v. Fund for Public Interest 18 Research, Inc., No. 06-cv-7776-SC, 2007 WL 2729187, at * 2 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 18, 2007) (“Given 19 that a motion for conditional certification usually comes before much, if any, discovery, and is made 20 in anticipation of a later more searching review, a movant bears a very light burden in substantiating 21 its allegations at this stage.”). See also Labrie v. UPS Supply Chain Solutions, Inc., No. 08-cv-3182- 22 PJH, 2009 WL 723599, at *6 (N.D. Cal. March 18, 2009) (“SCS opposes conditional certification on 23 the ground that plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that members of the proposed collective action 24 are ‘similarly situated.’. . . . The court finds that SCS’s arguments raise issues primarily going to the 25 merits and are more appropriately addressed on a motion to decertify or motion for summary 26 judgment once notice has been given, the deadline to opt-in has passed, and discovery is closed.”). 27 28 1 The Equal Pay Act is an amendment to the FLSA. 29 U.S.C. § 206. 3 1 As such, some courts have declined to consider evidence offered by defendants in opposition 2 to a plaintiff’s motion for conditional class certification. See, e.g., Sanchez v. Sephora USA, Inc., 3 No. 11-cv-03396-SBA, 2012 WL 2945753, at *4 (N.D. Cal. July 18, 2012) (“[F]ederal courts are in 4 agreement that evidence from the employer is not germane at the first stage of the certification 5 process, which is focused simply on whether notice should be disseminated to potential claimants.”); 6 Harris, 716 F. Supp. 2d at 838 (“A plaintiff need not submit a large number of declarations or 7 affidavits to make the requisite factual showing. A handful of declarations may suffice . . . . The fact 8 that a defendant submits competing declarations will not as a general rule preclude conditional 9 certification.”). Accord Kress v. PricewaterhouseCoopers, LLP, 263 F.R.D. 623, 628 (E.D. Cal. 2009) (“In determining whether plaintiffs have met this standard, courts need not consider evidence 11 For the Northern District of California United States District Court 10 provided by defendants.”). 12 Instead, courts have held that such evidence is relevant in the second stage of the class 13 certification analysis, in the defendant’s motion to decertify the conditionally certified class. See, 14 e.g., Cranney v. Carriage Services, Inc., No. 07-cv-1587-RLH PAL, 2008 WL 2457912, at *3 (D. 15 Nev. June 16, 2008) (where class has been conditionally certified, “fairness dictates the defendants 16 should be permitted to conduct enough [individualized] discovery [from opt-in plaintiffs] to support 17 a motion to decertify the conditionally certified class.”). 18 On the other hand, some courts have permitted discovery by the defendant, including 19 discovery regarding opt-in plaintiffs, prior to conditional class certification. Green v. Harbor 20 Freight Tools USA, Inc., No. 09-cv-2380-JAR, 2010 WL 686263 (D. Kan. Feb. 23, 2010) (granting 21 defendants’ request to depose four opt-in plaintiffs prior to conditional certification). See also Lewis 22 v. Wells Fargo & Co., 669 F.Supp.2d 1124 (N.D. Cal. 2009) (on motion for conditional class 23 certification, considering evidence from both plaintiffs and defendant, including deposition 24 testimony and declarations from opt-in plaintiffs submitted by plaintiffs); Velasquez v. HSBC 25 Finance Corp., 266 F.R.D. 424, 428 (N.D. Cal. 2010) (citing to deposition testimony of putative 26 class members submitted by plaintiffs in decision to deny conditional class certification). 27 In this case, the requested discovery regarding opt-in Plaintiffs is premature. Because 28 conditional class certification requires Plaintiffs to make only a minimal showing that class members 4 1 are similarly situated and subjected to common policies, courts in this district generally do not 2 consider evidence provided by defendants in determining conditional class certification. Any 3 evidence Defendant collects from the opt-in Plaintiffs will be more relevant to Defendant’s 4 anticipated decertification motion, which occurs later in the case, than to Plaintiffs’ motion for 5 conditional class certification. 6 In addition, Plaintiffs argue that allowing early depositions will expose class members to 7 multiple deposition sessions, since the EPA opt-ins are also members of the Title VII class and 8 Defendant is likely to redepose these plaintiffs on their other claims. Multiple depositions could 9 require Plaintiffs to defend out-of-state depositions more than once. Defendant does not dispute that 11 first step of two-step conditional certification process, allowing multiple depositions of the same 12 individuals is in this case unwarranted and inefficient. Should the court grant conditional 13 certification, Defendant will have the opportunity to conduct discovery to prepare for a motion for 14 decertification. Accordingly, Defendant’s motion to compel is denied. 18 Dated: April 11, 2014 ED ORDER NO M. Ryu Don a ge RYUn Ju M. DONNA d United States Magistrate Judge ER C N F D IS T IC T O R 20 RT H 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 5 FO 19 O IT IS S R NIA IT IS SO ORDERED. S DISTRICT TE C TA LI 17 S 16 A 15 UNIT ED For the Northern District of California it will seek additional depositions of the same individuals. In light of the “lenient” standard in the RT U O United States District Court 10

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