FLSA Litigant Cannot Refuse to Provide Relevant Discovery Merely Because It May Open the Responding Party Up to Other Liability

When is a Haircut Spoliation? – Recent Oral Argument in Court of Appeals
June 13, 2022
Discovery on Discovery – Steps Taken to Produce Documents
June 14, 2022

In Guzman v. KP StoneyMill, Inc., 2022 WL 1748308 (D. Md. May 31, 2022)(Quereshi, J.), a single plaintiff sued his employer for alleged FLSA violations.  The Court addressed a number of discovery issues.  This blog focuses on one of them – defendants’ assertion that it need not provide discovery because doing so might expose it to other liability.

Plaintiff sought electronically stored summaries of time and related records of all other employees of defendants during a five-year period.

Plaintiff asserted that he offered to reduce the burden by conferring as to whether global reports could be generated.  However, plaintiff asserted that defendants refused to meet and confer.  Id. at *2.

Instead, “Defendants refuse[d] to produce information for other employees, because it would potentially open them up to additional liability from other employees.” [emphasis added].

The Court held that:

Although courts may, to an extent, shield recipients of discovery requests from making productions which would evidence criminal liability or where the public disclosure of the documents or the information therein would create civil liability, Defendants provide no authority, and I am aware of none, whereby a party may refuse to produce documents because the documents are themselves evidence of wrongdoing which would not create, but make public, evidence of civil liability…. Accordingly, I order Defendants to produce the Labor Summaries requested by Plaintiff for Defendants’ other employees for three years – from November 1, 2017 to October 30, 2020. This time-period reflects the statute of limitations for a willing violation of the FLSA…. [emphasis added].

In short, the scope of discovery is as set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b).  There is no “I’m going to get sued if I respond” exception.

One may wonder what the result would have been if the defendant had made a Rule 26(c) motion for a protective order.