Robert Heath v. Google Inc.

Filing 130

ORDER by Magistrate Judge Howard R. Lloyd re 101 Amended Discovery Dispute Joint Report No. 1; 100 Discovery Dispute Joint Report No. 2. (hrllc2, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 2/22/2017)

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 9 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 10 SAN JOSE DIVISION United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 ROBERT HEATH and CHERYL FILLEKES, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs, 14 15 16 17 v. Case No.5:15-cv-01824-BLF (HRL) ORDER RE AMENDED DISCOVERY DISPUTE JOINT REPORT NO. 1 AND DISCOVERY DISPUTE JOINT REPORT NO. 2 Re: Dkt. Nos. 100, 101 GOOGLE, INC., Defendant. 18 19 20 Amended Discovery Dispute Joint Report (DDJR) No. 1 Plaintiffs Robert Heath (“Heath”) and Cheryl Fillekes (“Fillekes”) seek an order 21 compelling Google to respond to their Requests for Production of Documents (“RFPs”) numbers 22 6, 9, and 11. The time period specified is January 1, 2010 to present. The information sought 23 concerns Google and its alleged age discrimination against applicants and employees. Both of the 24 plaintiffs were applicants who were not hired. Fillekes progressed to having an in-person 25 interview. Heath did not get further than a telephone interview. They started out with the same 26 attorney, but later Heath obtained separate counsel. Fillekes moved for conditional certification of 27 an “opt-in” class which narrowly defined its members as those over the age of 40, who applied for 28 engineering jobs in three classifications, who were interviewed in person, but who were not 1 2 offered employment. Because plaintiffs allege that Google engaged in a company-wide pattern and practice of 3 age discrimination against both applicants and employees, they contend that almost everything 4 that has any connection with Google and claimed age discrimination, whether it pertains to 5 applicants or employees in any position, is fair game for discovery. RFPs 6, 9, and 11 seek that 6 very broad discovery. Google balked and, except for one category of documents, said “no.” 7 Thereupon, plaintiffs filed DDJRs about this and other discovery grievances. The court 8 denied, without prejudice, each DDJR because of procedural defects. (Dkt. 62). In its order, the 9 court suggested that plaintiffs should consider dialing back the scope and breadth of their discovery requests and that defendant should not be so stingy in discovery responses that it might 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 be seen as stonewalling. 12 Now before the court is Amended DDJR #1, which again seeks company-wide discovery 13 about age discrimination against Google applicants and employees. Plaintiffs propose to narrow 14 RFPs 6, 9, and 11 to only seek: 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 Request 6: (1) all complaints lodged with the EEOC (or comparable state agency) regarding age discrimination by applicants or employees, any response by Google, any correspondence between Google and the EEOC (or state agency), all documents produced, and all documents reflecting any resolution of the complaint, (2) all complaints filed in court, any answer by Google, all expert reports prepared as part of the case (including materials relied upon by the expert, all deposition and trial transcripts, and all documents reflecting any resolution of the case. Request 9: for any federal or state government investigation of Google regarding its hiring practices and/or age discrimination, all communications between Google and the government, all documents produced to the government, all documents reflecting testimony, and all documents reflecting any resolution of the investigation. Request 11: all briefs filed with the court in the Reid case, as well as all documents produced in discovery, including all expert reports and any evidence relied upon by the expert, all deposition and trial transcripts, and all documents reflecting any resolution of the case. 25 (Dkt. 101, Amended DDJR No. 1 at 5:19-6:6). In support of their position, plaintiffs cite cases 26 which say discovery can be broad, but none offer specific guidance on the appropriate scope of 27 discovery when (as will be discussed below), a collective action has been conditionally certified as 28 to a relatively small subset of job applicants in a case where the plaintiffs allege a company-wide 2 1 policy and practice of age discrimination against applicants and employees alike. The defendant, 2 which also offers no helpful case authority, complains about the scope and breadth of what 3 plaintiffs’ want, grumbles about relevance and burden, and urges that determining the permissible 4 scope of discovery should wait until the presiding judge certifies a class or not. 5 Some months have gone by since Amended DDJR #1 was filed, and the playing field has 6 changed. The presiding judge has now conditionally certified a “Fillekes class” defined as: 7 All individuals who: interviewed in-person for any Site Reliability Engineer (“SRE”), Software Engineer (“SWE”), or Systems Engineer (“SysEng”) position with Google, Inc. (“Google”) in the United States; were age 40 or older at the time of the interview; and were refused employment by Google; and received notice that they were refused employment on August 28, 2014 through October 5, 2016. 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 (Dkt. 121 at 6). Heath is not a member of the Fillekes class, and the presiding judge rebuffed each of his attempts to secure an order certifying a “Heath class.” Heath, apparently, is now on his own. The court here is dealing with discovery, not with whether what the discovery discloses is 15 admissible at trial. This court does not believe that the class definition should cabin what is 16 discoverable. It seems reasonable to allow the plaintiffs to try to prove their claims by 17 demonstrating, possibly, that there is a company-wide policy and practice of age discrimination, 18 and that---if there is---it is as likely to be practiced against both Google employees and Google 19 applicants. 20 With an eye on proportionality, and hearing no substantiated claim of undue burden, the 21 court orders production of non-privileged documents and electronically stored information (ESI) 22 responsive to RFPs 6, 9, 11, from January 1, 2010 to the present as follows: 23 1. All claims filed with the EEOC or comparable state agency by any engineering 24 applicant or employee alleging age discrimination by Google; Google’s response(s) 25 including documents, statements, charts, compilations, exhibits, and internal 26 investigation; and the outcome of the claim. 27 2. All complaints of age discrimination by any engineering applicant or employee of 28 Google filed in court; any court filings showing whether or why any claim was or 3 1 was not established; and the outcome. (The court does not order production of the 2 Reid v. Google, Inc. lawsuit materials.) 3 3. Documents identifying and describing any investigation of Google by federal or 4 state agencies into systemic or institutional age discrimination in hiring or 5 employment; all correspondence between Google and the investigators; all 6 documents produced, reports, graphs, charts, statements, testimony, and 7 compilations; all findings, conclusions, opinions, and recommendations; and the 8 outcome or current status if still ongoing. This category is not limited to 9 engineering applicants or employees. 10 4. A rolling production shall begin forthwith, with full compliance by April 28, 2017. United States District Court Northern District of California 11 DDJR No. 2 12 13 In DDJR #2, the plaintiffs seek an order compelling Google to produce certain ESI from a 14 data base called “gHire.” This court is not told exactly what information is in gHire; but, whatever 15 the totality might be, it seems to include resumes from job applicants. Plaintiffs say Google 16 should have identified (and produced information) from gHire when it earlier responded to 17 plaintiffs’ requests for production, specifically Request for production (“RFP”) #3: 18 19 20 21 22 23 Documents and ESI relating to demographics or statistics of Google, Inc.’s United States Potential Hires and work force, including, but not limited to database files, spreadsheets, reports, studies, or other documents reflecting the statistics of the Potential Hires and/or workforce in terms of the individuals’ ages, genders, and other demographic or statistical data of any kind. (Dkt. 100, DDJR 2 at 2). Google says: “nonsense.” RFP #3 asks for demographic information, and that is not 24 what’s in gHire. If they wanted contact information for putative class members, says Google, 25 plaintiffs should have made a formal request and not the “informal” request they made once they 26 learned of gHire. The informal request was: 27 28 For gHire, please sort by the following jobs: Software Engineer, Software Engineer in Test, Site Reliability Engineer, and Systems Engineer, Site Reliability Engineering (however they are referenced in the data) and export 4 the following fields: application date, candidate name, candidate contact information, company, job opening ID, job opening title, job opening type, and text of resume. 1 2 3 (Dkt. 100, DDJR 2 at 8). Furthermore, says Google, plaintiffs are not entitled to contact information until class 4 5 certification. Well, by now a conditional Fillekes class has been certified, so that last mentioned 6 argument has gone away. And, broadly construed, gHire does appear to have raw demographic 8 and statistical information available within the data, even if the information has not been tabulated, 9 formulated, or organized into demographics. Plaintiffs could have defanged Google’s argument 10 by formally propounding an RFP asking for the gHire information, but they did not. Even now, 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 7 there is still over a year left before the close of discovery, presumably plenty of time for more 12 formal discovery. Ordinarily, this court would not be so generous to construe the gHire database as 13 14 responsive to RFP #3. Here though, even Google concedes that contact information would be fair 15 game for discovery after class certification, and that has occurred. Also, it would exalt form over 16 substance to deny an order for the information sought only to require plaintiffs to ask for it again 17 formally and more specifically. The court will require Google to produce gHire information for 18 the fields requested by plaintiffs, as described above, and for the three job classifications identified 19 in the certified class definition.1 20 However, what inclusive dates should be used? The court is not inclined to be generous on 21 this point and chooses the inclusive dates from the conditionally certified class definition: August 22 28, 2014 through October 5, 2016. 23 24 25 26 1 27 28 This court is unaware whether the presiding judge during proceedings on class notification may have made an order or otherwise indicated a limitation on access by plaintiff’s counsel to contact information on the putative class members. If so, to the extent it is inconsistent, this order is trumped. 5 1 Production shall be completed by April 28, 2017. 2 SO ORDERED. 3 Dated: February 22, 2017 4 5 HOWARD R. LLOYD United States Magistrate Judge 6 7 8 9 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 1 2 5:15-cv-01824-BLF Notice has been electronically mailed to: Anthony Craig Cleland, 3 4 Brian Davis Berry,, 5 Daniel A. Kotchen 6 Daniel Lee Low,, 7 Dow Wakefield Patten, 8 9 10 George S. Duesdieker, Thomas Michael McInerney,, United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 7

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