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Saturday, May 16, 2015

Williams v. Superior Court (Marshalls of CA): Court Properly Limited Discovery of Employees' Contact Information in PAGA Action

In Williams v. Superior Court (Marshalls of CA, LLC) (5/15/15) --- Cal.App.4th ---, the plaintiff filed a PAGA action for meal and rest period violations and sought discovery of contact information for Marshalls's non-exempt employees. The trial court granted plaintiff's motion to compel in part, ordering Marshalls to produce contact information for the employees only at its Costa Mesa store, and denying plaintiff's request for state-wide discovery, but allowing plaintiff to renew his motion to compel the remaining information after he had been deposed “for at least six productive hours,” at which time Marshalls could attempt to show plaintiff’s substantive claims had no factual merit.

The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding as follows:

Plaintiff's complaint alleged only that he and perhaps others at the Costa Mesa store suffered Labor Code violations. Plaintiff showed no knowledge of Marshalls' [sic] practices at other stores. "That being the case, it was eminently reasonable for the trial judge to proceed with discovery in an incremental fashion..."
The cost of state-wide discovery also justified incremental discovery.

Nothing in PAGA gives a representative plaintiff the same right to discovery that the Labor Commissioner would have in an enforcement action.

The employees' Constitutional privacy interests outweighed plaintiff’s need to discover their identities at this time.

[Plaintiff's] first task will be to establish he was himself subjected to violations of the Labor Code. As he has not yet sat for deposition, this task remains unfulfilled. The trial court could reasonably conclude that the second task will be to establish Marshalls’ [sic] employment practices are uniform throughout the company, which might be accomplished by reference to a policy manual or perhaps deposition of a corporate officer. The trial court could reasonably conclude that only then will plaintiff be able to set forth facts justifying statewide discovery.
The opinion is available here.

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