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Defendant Ordered To Produce SalesForce Records Requested By Plaintiffs To Prove Wage Class Action

Posted on September 13th, 2017

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Follow our blog for future updates on eDiscovery topicsIn Williams v. Angie’s List, Inc., No. 1:16-cv-00878-WTL-MJD (S.D. Ind. Apr. 10, 2017), a class-action employment case, Defendant Angie’s List produced data spanning one year of a three year time range requested by Plaintiffs, but refused to turn over the balance. The Plaintffs moved to compel.

The Plaintiffs who brought this motion are 49 current and former employees of Angie’s List.  In their class action, they allege that Angie’s List instructed them to underreport their overtime hours on their computerized time recording (via the time recording service named  “TimeTracker”).  The Plaintiffs further allege they are entitled to substantial additional compensation due to the underreporting, per the provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act. In order to establish how much work was done and therefore prove their claims, Plaintiffs served reqests for production for a variety of records. The data requested included records typically related to official timekeeping records, such as company TimeTracker records, badge-swipe data, and work calendars.

However, such official timekeeping records would not be relevant to the scenario presented here, where Defendant allegedly instructed Plaintiffs not to report some of their work hours on their official time records.   Also, the Plaintiffs frequently worked from home, particularly when working overtime, where their time may not have been captured by the official time tracking means.  Therefore, Plaintiffs also sought background data automatically recorded while they were working on Salesforce, a sales platform used by Angie’s List, in an effort to fill the time gaps. In responding to the Plaintiffs’ request for SalesForce records spanning a three year time period, Defendant Angie’s List  provided only one year’s worth of this background data.  Defendant’s refusal to produce the data relative to the other two years resulted in the motion to compel

Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 37(a)(3), a party may move the Court to compel production of documents if the party’s request is within the scope of discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 37(a)(3)(B)(iv). The scope of discovery under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) is broad, only limited from the outset to “any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). Inadmissibility does not preclude discoverability.

In its opposition, Defendant Angie’s List claimed that Plaintiffs’ request for the Salesforce records falls outside of Rule 34(a)(1) because the records are outside of Angie’s List’s possession, custody, or control. Defendant argued that Salesforce is a third-party provider of services and that Defendant has no greater rights to the background data than any other person. Defendant further argued that if the Court grants Plaintiff’s motion, that Plaintiff should bear some or all of the production costs.

Rule 34 governing requests for production provides that a party may only be compelled to produce electronically stored information “in the responding party’s possession, custody, or control.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(a)(1). To the Court, in the party’s control means that the party has a legal right to obtain the information.

In considering the merits of the arguments, the court reviewed the following facts: (1) Defendant had used Salesforce’s sales platform since 2012; (2) Salesforce’s platform logs background data regarding each client’s Salesforce use; (3) These records may be used for a variety of purposes, including to allow Defendant to determine what activities an Angie’s List User performed in Salesforce and the date and time when those activities were performed; and, (4) that Defendant had been able to produce one year’s worth of Salesforce background data in response to Plaintiffs’ request for production served on June 15, 2016.

In weighing these facts against the Defendant’s arguments, the Court found the Defendant’s arguments unpersausive.  The Court found that the evidence demonstrated that Defendant and Salesforce had a longstanding contractual relationship and that the background data is recorded for Defendant as part of the ordinary course of their business relationship. The evidence also clearly demonstrated that Defendant can access the information upon request. Further, the fact that Defendant has already produced one-third of the requested data, coupled with the evidence demonstrating the relationship between Defendant and Salesforce, compelled the conclusion that Angie’s List had a “legal right to obtain” the discovery sought.

The Court concluded that Plaintiffs met their burden of demonstrating that Defendant had a legal right to obtain the data, and that Plaintiffs request for production properly sought documents within Angie’s List’s “possession, custody, or control” under Rule 34(a).

Having determined that the background data was within Defendant’s control, the Court turned to the question of who must pay for the production of it. The parties agreed that courts have the authority to order cost shifting where producing electronically stored information is unduly burdensome or costly. The parties disagreed, however, on whether this was an appropriate case to engage in cost shifting.

The Court determined that Plaintiffs were not requesting these records as part of a fishing expedition. Plaintiffs’ claims depended on demonstrating that they worked hours—frequently from home when there would be no relevant data reflected on work calendars or badge swipe records—that were not reflected in TimeTracker. The fact that the Salesforce system was not designed to track hours was irrelevant, and that any user-generated event logs that do not correspond to TimeTracker hours are critical to Plaintiffs’ claims that they worked uncompensated overtime hours. The Court concluded that these factors weighed strongly against cost shifting. It further observed that the asserted $30,000 price tag to produce the remaining two years of data is easily outstripped by the amount in controversy, and that the Defendant has ample resources to comply with its discovery obligations. It was additionally noted by the Court that Defendant Angie’s List failed to dispute the presumption that it must pay for producing the requested discovery. The Court granted Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel, and ordered Defendant to produce the balance of the data.

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