Court Orders Production of Payroll and Timekeeping Records in Electronic Form, Rejecting Hard Copy Production

Gilliam v. Addicts Rehab. Ctr. Fund, Inc., 2006 WL 228874 (S.D.N.Y. Jan. 26, 2006)

In this class action alleging violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act, defendants identified 148 compact discs containing information responsive to plaintiffs’ requests for certain records. The discs contained payroll and timekeeping records for approximately 150 employees, and also contained personal information, including health, credit, and family information about those employees.

Defendants argued that they were justified in withholding the discs from production because they contained personal information unrelated to the plaintiffs’ claims. Although plaintiffs agreed to address the privacy concerns by entering into a confidentiality agreement, defendants argued that a confidentiality agreement would not address their concerns because the information should not be viewed by “outsiders.” The court noted that defendants voluntarily disclosed the same information on the discs to its (outside) payroll and recordkeeping service provider. In light of this, the court found defendants’ arguments for withholding the same information from plaintiffs to be without merit.

Defendants also contended that plaintiffs did not need to access the non-relevant information on the discs because they would produce, in paper form, records which contain the relevant information. Defendants described this production as comprising forty-six boxes and approximately 36,000 pages. Defendants could not provide a time frame for the review and disclosure of responsive documents, but the court observed there seemed “little doubt that the time and cost expenditure could be disproportionate to the interests sought to be protected.” The court noted that the undertaking was made more difficult since defendants insisted that the material must be reviewed on premises.

It continued:

In contrast, plaintiffs could make duplicates of the computer discs quickly and inexpensively. These discs could then be reviewed in a more efficient manner and the sensitive information skipped by the reviewer(s). Admittedly, this means that the individual reviewing the computer files could look at the personal data, but the confidentiality order addresses this concern.

The Court is charged with securing the “just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.” Rule 1, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In light of Rule 1, since the time frame and cost associated with the review and production of the documents is uncertain, and because plaintiffs will be entitled to attorney’s fees if they succeed in this action under FLSA, the production of the discs is appropriate.

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