United States District Court, D. Maine
ORDER ON DISCOVERY ISSUE
C. NIVISON U.S. MAGISTRATE JUDGE
a collective action arising under the Fair Labor Standards
Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 201 et seq., in which Plaintiffs
allege Defendants misclassified their bakery distributor
drivers as independent contractors, and thus deprived the
drivers of the rights and benefits of employment, including
matter is before the Court on the parties' dispute
regarding Defendants' redaction of certain documents
produced in discovery. In accordance with the Court's
order following a telephonic conference (Order, ECF No. 169),
the parties filed written argument on this issue. (ECF Nos.
170, 182.) Defendants also filed for the Court's review
examples of the un-redacted documents that are the subject of
review of the parties' submissions, on August 31, 2018,
the Court conducted a telephonic conference with counsel to
discuss some of the issues generated by the parties'
filings. As the result of the conference, at the Court's
direction, the parties submitted additional information for
the Court's consideration.
discovery, Plaintiffs requested that Defendants produce
documents generated in connection with a project that
Defendant Flowers Foods commissioned in 2016, which project
is known as Project Centennial. According to Defendants,
“Project Centennial was a comprehensive, company-wide
program to streamline operations, drive efficiencies, and
invest in strategic capabilities that involved business
transformation and restructuring across the entire company.
Project Centennial touched on many areas of business other
than the distributor program.” (Defendants' Brief
at 2, ECF No. 170.)
produced the documents responsive to Plaintiffs' request,
but redacted portions of the documents citing the lack of
relevancy and proprietary nature of the redacted information.
In the most recent telephonic conference, Defendants also
noted the request for the information was not proportional to
the needs of the case.
maintain that Defendants impermissibly redacted information
based on relevancy. Plaintiffs contend all of the information
regarding Project Centennial is relevant as it addresses and
describes Defendants' business model, which necessarily
implicates the distributor program. (Plaintiff's Brief,
ECF No. 182.) Through their supplemental filing, Plaintiffs
cite the deposition testimony of Kelly Hernandez,
Defendants' Rule 30(b)(6) corporate designee for Project
Centennial matters, in support of their argument. Plaintiffs
also argue that governing authority does not permit a party
to redact information from an otherwise relevant document
based on relevancy. (Plaintiff's Brief at 6 - 7.)
may obtain discovery regarding 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). Additionally, “[i]nformation within the scope
of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be
Court acknowledges that as a general rule, the redaction of
alleged non-relevant information from an otherwise relevant
document has not been viewed favorably by some courts.
See, e.g., Bartholomew v. Avalon
Capital Grp., Inc., 278 F.R.D. 441, 451 - 52
(D. Minn. 2011); Durling v. Papa John's
Int'l, No. 7:16-cv-3592, 2018 WL 557915 at *9
(S.D.N.Y. Jan. 24, 2018). There are circumstances, however,
where redaction based on relevance has been permitted,
including where the information is business-related and not
relevant. See RBS Citizens, N.A. v. Husain,
291 F.R.D. 209, 222 - 23 (N.D. Ill. 2013); In re Yasmin
and Yaz Mktg., Sales Practices and Prod. Liab.
Litig., No. 3:09-MD-02100, 2010 WL 3780798 at *2 (D.
Ill. Sept. 22, 2010).
review of the examples of the un-redacted documents revealed
that the redacted portions of the documents include
information that can fairly be described as business
strategy, including proprietary information, which is
unrelated to the distributor issues in this case. The fact
that Defendants' corporate representative might consider
any documents generated by the Project Centennial as
information that could have some impact on the distributor
program is not controlling. The Court understands that any
modification of Defendants' business strategy
theoretically could have some impact on all of
Defendants' business operations, including the
distributor program. A theoretical relationship of the
information is insufficient to establish relevancy and
that the Project Centennial documents plainly include
strategic business information that does not relate to the
distributor-related issues in this case, Defendants'
decision to redact certain information from the documents on
grounds of relevancy was justified. Nevertheless, because
Defendants' control over Plaintiffs' work, including
Plaintiffs' markets, is a central issue in the case,
information regarding Defendants' business relationship
with the stores/entities that purchase the products supplied
by the distributors, including information regarding
Defendants' involvement in establishing the price charged
for the products by the distributors and the stores/entities
that purchase and sell the products, is relevant. The list of
the redacted information provided by ...