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LOY v. MOTOROLA

November 22, 2004.

JESSICA LOY, f/ka/ JESSICA VINCER, individually and on behalf of all other Motorola employees similarly situated, Plaintiff,
v.
MOTOROLA, INC., a corporation, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: P. MICHAEL MAHONEY, Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Jessica Loy ("Plaintiff") filed a two count Amended Complaint against Motorola, Inc. ("Defendant") individually and on behalf of all other Motorola employees similarly situated, on April 15, 2004. Plaintiff filed her Amended Complaint pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 ("FMLA"), Section 107(a)(2)(B), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et. seq., and in the alternative, pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3).*fn1 Currently, no motions to certify a class or collective action have been filed in this case. This matter is now before the court on Defendant's Renewed Motion for a Protective Order relating to Plaintiff's First Request for Production and certain depositions sought by Plaintiff. For the reasons stated below, Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order is denied. I. Background

For the limited purposes of this motion, the court accepts as true the background facts relayed in Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order. By doing so, the court makes no judgment about the actual truth or accuracy of the facts alleged. Plaintiff worked in the Login Department at Motorola's Rockford facility from April, 2001, to April, 2002. While working for Defendant, Plaintiff was granted medical leave under the FMLA from December 4, 2001, through December 9, 2001, and intermittent leave thereafter. Allegedly, Plaintiff's FMLA leave time was used to calculate her employee production average, thereby lowering her average and denying her the opportunity to participate in various benefits/incentive programs. On April 22, 2002, Plaintiff was told that she was being terminated for tardiness and attendance issues.

  Plaintiff asserts that the alleged inclusion of FMLA leave time into her productivity average was a violation of the FMLA. In addition, Plaintiff alleges that Defendant calculated other Motorola employees' productivity without regard to the FMLA's requirement of excluding leave time under the Act. Thus, Plaintiff brings this action as an individual and on behalf of other employees similarly situated pursuant to Section 107(a)(2)(B) of the FMLA, and in the alternative, Fed.R. Civ. P. 23.

  On or about June 8, 2004, Plaintiff served her First Request for Production of Documents on Defendant. Defendant did produce materials responsive to Plaintiff's request, in particular in regard to the original twenty-three Plaintiffs. Plaintiff, however, contends that outstanding materials have not been turned over, including various employee files and information on how Motorola calculated productivity rates at times relevant to her lawsuit. As part of her pre-certification discovery, Plaintiff also seeks to depose Motorola employees who are knowledgeable about Defendant's FMLA policies and practices and productivity tracking customs.

  Defendant first moved for a protective order relating to Plaintiff's discovery on August 12, 2004. Defendant's motion was denied on August 18, 2004. Since then, Defendant has taken the deposition of the Plaintiff, and has renewed its Motion for a Protective Order based on information discovered at the deposition that convinced Defendant that Plaintiff is not an appropriate representative for additional individuals who may have claims against Motorola under the FMLA regarding productivity practices. Because of this, Defendant seeks to limit Plaintiff's broad discovery generally allowed under Fed.R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3).

  Underlying Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order is the issue of whether Plaintiff can proceed under Fed.R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3) as Plaintiff asserts, or whether FMLA class violations must be treated as collective actions under the Fair Labor Standards Act ("FSLA"), 29 U.S.C. § 216(b), as Defendant asserts. Claims filed under § 216(b) are different than Rule 23 class actions because § 216(b) collective actions require parties to "opt in" to be bound, while under Rule 23, parties must "opt out" not to be bound. See Woods v. New York Life Ins. Co., 686 F.2d 578 (7th Cir. 1982); Mielke v. Laidlaw Transit, Inc., 313 F. Supp.2d 759 (N.D. Ill. 2004). Class based discovery under Rule 23 is generally broader than in § 216(b) collective actions as well.

  II. Discussion

  Whether or not Plaintiff's case can proceed as a class or collective action is not the issue currently before the court, nor is it normally a decision for the Magistrate Judge to make. However, whether Plaintiff proceeds under the FLSA or Rule 23 impacts Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order so the Magistrate must reach that issue. Defendant argues that alleged class violations of the FMLA must be treated as collective actions under the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Defendant bases its argument on the statutory language of the FMLA, stating that the language of the enforcement provision of the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(2) mirrors that of the FLSA, 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). Further, Defendant quotes FMLA legislative history that suggests the enforcement scheme of the FMLA was intended to be identical to that of the FSLA:
[The FMLA's] enforcement scheme is modeled on the enforcement scheme of the FLSA, which has been in effect since 1938. Thus the FMLA creates no new agency or enforcement procedures, but instead relies on the time-tested FLSA procedures already established by the Department of Labor. . . . The Relief provided in the FMLA also parallels the provisions of the FLSA.
S. Rep. No. 103-3, at 35 (1993). Defendant also compares the FMLA with the Age Discrimination in Employment Act ("ADEA") because actions brought under ADEA have been treated as opt-in collective actions under the FLSA, not Rule 23. Defendant finally notes that courts interpreting the FMLA frequently track FLSA interpretations on collateral issues such as damages*fn2 and jury trials.*fn3

  Plaintiff, on the other hand, argues that class violations of the FMLA must be treated as opt-out actions under the FMLA, 29 U.S.C. § 2617(a)(2) and pursuant to Fed.R. Civ. P. 23(b)(3). In support of her argument, Plaintiff states that the statutory language of the FMLA § 2617(a)(2) clearly does not incorporate the express "consent" and "opt-in" language of the FLSA, which provides in § 216(b) that no person may be bound by, or benefit from, a judgment unless the person has filed a written consent to become a party. This is, of course, in direct contrast to Rule 23, which binds absent parties who fall within a certified class unless they opt out.

  Plaintiff also points out that when other statutes, like the ADEA, incorporate the "opt-in" enforcement procedures of § 216(b), they do so expressly. For example, Section 7(b) of the ADEA specifically directs that "provisions of this Chapter shall be enforced in accordance with the powers, remedies, and procedures provided in Sections . . . 216 of this title." 29 U.S.C. § 626(b).*fn4 Plaintiff asserts that the FMLA contains no such provision, and absent a contrary intent of Congress, Fed.R. Civ. P. 23 is the appropriate enforcement mechanism. Plaintiff also analogizes the FMLA with class claims brought under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101, because these class claims, likewise, do not incorporate the FLSA, and are subject to certification by the court pursuant to Rule 23.*fn5

  In Califano v. Yamasaki, the Supreme Court held that "[i]n the absence of a direct expression by Congress of its intent to depart from the usual course of trying `all suits of a civil nature' under the Rules established for that purpose, class relief is appropriate." 442 U.S. 682, 700 (1979) (quoting Fed.R.Civ. P. 1). Because the plain language of the FMLA is silent as to the appropriate vehicle for an action to proceed on the behalf of others, this court is inclined to apply Fed.R. Civ. P. 23 as it moves with this case through its discovery stages. While Defendant argues that FMLA claims are highly factual, and thus inappropriate for a class context, Defendant has not pointed to any inconsistency between the FMLA and the procedures of Rule 23. Thus, this court finds that Rule 23 class action rules are appropriate to apply in this case.*fn6

  Accordingly, this court turns to Defendant's Motion for a Protective Order. Under Rule 26(c), it is clear that "for good cause shown, the court in which the action is pending . . . may make any order which justice requires to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, including . . . (1) that the disclosure or discovery not be had." Fed.R. Civ. P. 26(c)(1). The district court has discretion to decide when a protective order is appropriate and what degree of protection is required. Seattle Times Co., v. Rhinehart, 467 U.S. 20, 36, 104 (1984). Only good cause is required in determining whether or not to issue a protective order. Id. at 37. In deciding whether good cause exists, the district court must balance the interests of the parties, taking into account the harm to the party seeking the protective order and the importance of the disclosure to the non-moving party. Wiggins v. Burge, 173 F.R.D. 226, 229 (N.D. Ill. 1997). The party seeking the protective order has the burden of showing that good cause exists by alleging particular and specific facts. See Gulf Oil Co. v. Bernard, 452 U.S. 89 (1981).

  Further, courts have considerable discretion in deciding whether, and to what degree discovery in regards to class certification issues should go forward. Typically, discovery is permitted to allow Plaintiff to show the existence of a class. Specifically, discovery is allowed where there is a need to determine whether Rule 23 requirements are met and whether the action fits in one of the Rule 23(b) categories. Discovery must be sufficiently broad to give the plaintiff a realistic opportunity to meet the requirements of class certification, but at the same time, a defendant should be protected from overly burdensome or irrelevant discovery. See McCray v. Standard Oil Co., 76 F.R.D. 490 (N.D. ...


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