United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Evansville Division
DANESSA V. BLAIR, individually and on behalf of similarly situated individuals, Plaintiffs,
PROFESSIONAL TRANSPORTATION, INC., and RONALD D. ROMAIN, individually and as chief executive officer of Professional Transportation, Inc. Defendants.
ENTRY ON PLAINTIFFS' MOTION TO COMPEL PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS
WILLIAM G. HUSSMANN, Jr., District Judge.
This matter is before me, William G. Hussmann, Jr., United States Magistrate Judge, on Plaintiff Danessa Blair's Motion to Compel Production of Documents (Filing No. 170) and Chief Judge Young's order of reference. The matter is fully briefed. (Filing No. 170; Filing No. 175; Filing No. 181.) Being duly advised, I GRANT the Motion in part and DENY it in part.
The Plaintiffs here are current and former employees of Defendant Professional Transportation, Inc. (PTI). As the basis for their suit, the Plaintiffs claim that PTI has paid them less than the minimum wage and denied them overtime pay to which they are entitled under the Fair Labor Standards Act. See 29 U.S.C. §§ 206, 207. The FLSA permits aggrieved employees to recover double damages: They may pursue their unpaid overtime wages and the difference between their actual receipts and the minimum wage to which they were entitled, and they also may recover an equal sum in the form of liquidated damages. See 29 U.S.C. § 216.
In its Answer, PTI claims that it has dealt with the Plaintiffs in good faith and on a reasonable belief that it has complied with the FLSA. (Filing No. 36 at ¶¶ 21-23.) This is important because the FLSA grants courts discretion to decrease or eliminate statutory liquidated damages awards where they are satisfied that the defendant acted "in good faith and that he had reasonable grounds for believing" he complied with the FLSA. See 29 U.S.C. § 260.
By their Motion, the Plaintiffs ask the Court to compel the Defendants to produce communications between the Defendants and the Crew Hauler's Trade Association (CHTA). Specifically, they seek 97 e-mails the Defendants have withheld as privileged and unedited copies of documents the Defendants have produced in redacted form.
The parties describe the CHTA as an association of companies (including PTI) engaged in the business of transporting rail crews to and from train stations throughout the country. According to the Defendants, the CHTA formed in May of 2008 - a period when the FLSA was in flux - for the purpose of "advanc[ing] the common public policy and legislative positions of the Members." ( See Filing No. 170-6 at ECF p. 1; Filing No. 175 at ECF pp. 2, 5.) Presumably, the Plaintiffs seek these documents to undermine the Defendants' good faith defense - that is, to demonstrate that the Defendants monitored developments in the FLSA and therefore knowingly violated the law.
II. Legal Standard
A party to litigation is entitled to discover from his adversary "any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). Where federal law decides the case, federal common law also determines the existence and applicability of any evidentiary privilege. Fed.R.Evid. 501; see also United States v. BDO Seidman, LLP, 492 F.3d 806, 814 (7th Cir. 2007).
The Defendants oppose production on two grounds: The documents sought are irrelevant to the claims and defenses at issue in this litigation, and, in any event, they are communications protected by the attorney-client privilege. I find that most of the documents are relevant for discovery purposes but require in camera review for claims of privilege to be properly assessed.
A. By the Defendants' descriptions, most of the documents the Plaintiffs seek are relevant to the Defendants' good-faith defense.
To be discoverable, evidence must be "relevant to any party's claim or defense...." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). At trial, evidence is relevant if it has "any tendency" to make a material fact more or less probable. Fed.R.Evid. 401. But even inadmissible evidence is discoverable so long as it "appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence." Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1).
The Defendants' submissions suggest that the bulk of their withheld and redacted communications are relevant. They tend to indicate that the CHTA was engaged in the FLSA's 2008 revision, and such evidence could establish (or lead to discovery of additional evidence that could establish) that the ...