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Magistrate Orders Production of Payroll and Timekeeping Records in Electronic, Manipulable Form Despite Prior Hard Copy Production

Posted in CASE SUMMARIES

Ayers v. SGS Control Servs., 2006 WL 1519609 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 3, 2006) In a previous ruling, summarized here, the court ordered defendants to produce spreadsheets containing mathematical calculations regarding the payroll and timekeeping data. See Ayers v. SGS Control Servs., 2006 WL 618786 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 9, 2006), and Ayers v. SGS Control Servs., 2006 WL 859362 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 3, 2006) (denying defendants’ requests for reconsideration). In addition, the court had previously ordered plaintiffs to produce their damage calculations. In order to do these calculations, however, plaintiffs needed raw payroll and timekeeping data from defendants. Ruling on this and other discovery matters, the court ordered defendants to produce the payroll and timekeeping records in electronic form. Defendants had resisted such production, arguing that: (1) they had already disclosed responsive records in document form; (2) the records could be obtained by serving a subpoena on the third party that provided payroll and recordkeeping services for defendants; and (3) the production of records in electronic form would compromise the private information of their employees. Ruling against defendants, the court found that, to perform the damages calculations demanded by defendants, plaintiffs would have to recreate the pay and time data in an electronic, manipulable form, and that such work would take more than 300 hours. It observed that, although defendants already had the information in electronic form – because their payroll system was electronic – they nonetheless insisted on having plaintiffs go through the “burdensome, time consuming, and expensive process of recreating the data in electronic form.” The court concluded that producing the pay and time data in an electronic, manipulable format would expedite the resolution of this action by facilitating the calculation of damages that defendants had demanded and the court had ordered.

This Court is charged with securing the “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.” Rule 1, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Defendants do not challenge plaintiffs’ estimate of the time needed to create the database. Given the inherent delay and added costs, and the need to reconcile separately developed databases, the production of timekeeping and payroll records in electronic format is appropriate. Moreover, since defendants do not claim these documents are privileged, plaintiffs do not have to establish a compelling need for disclosure.

The court rejected defendants’ remaining arguments, finding that the process of subpoenaing the records from the third party would unnecessarily delay and complicate the disclosure of the records, and that defendants’ concerns about employee privacy were meritless given defendants’ voluntarily disclosure of the information to the third party.