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Carrera v. E.M.D. Sales, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Maryland

November 19, 2018

CARRERA, et al, Plaintiffs,
v.
E.M.D. Sales, Inc., et al, Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          J. Mark Coulson United States Magistrate Judge

         This suit arises out of claims of denial of overtime compensation levied by Plaintiffs Faustino Sanchez Carrera, Jesus Davis Muro, and Gervacio Magdaleno, (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”) against Defendants E.M.D. Sales, Inc. (“EMD”), Elda M. Devarie, and E&R Sales and Marketing Services, Inc., (collectively, the “Defendants”). The case has been referred to me for resolution of all discovery and related scheduling matters pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and Local Rule 301. (ECF No. 28).

         For the reasons stated below, Plaintiffs' requests (ECF Nos. 65 and 67) are GRANTED in part, DEFERRED PENDING HEARING in part, and DENIED in part, and Plaintiffs' request for a hearing is GRANTED in part.

         I. BACKGROUND

         To provide a proper frame of reference, this case involves three Plaintiffs alleging that their employer, EMD, violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) 29 U.S.C. 201-216(B) by misclassifying them as “exempt” employees and, in so doing, failed to pay them overtime and, in some instances, the applicable minimum wage beginning in 2014. Plaintiffs serviced various grocery store customers on behalf of EMD, a food distributor. Defendants contend that Plaintiffs acted as EMD's Sales Representatives for the customers they serviced such that they were exempt from the FLSA overtime and minimum wage requirements and could instead be paid strictly on commission earned on the amount of sales to each assigned grocery store. Plaintiffs claim that, notwithstanding their title of “sales representative, ” their job duties did not include “sales” to any appreciable degree, and instead involved merely re-filling customer orders (based on existing agreements negotiated by more senior EMD employees), and re-stocking customer shelves as inventory was depleted.

         Based on these issues in dispute, relevant discovery could be expected to center on: (1) qualitative and quantitative aspects of Plaintiffs' day-to-day activities to determine whether they were properly classified as exempt sales employees; (2) the number of hours Plaintiffs worked in excess of 40 to assess any overtime claim in the event overtime was determined to be applicable; and, (3) the amount of compensation Plaintiffs received to determine damages in the event they are found to be mis-classified and overtime/minimum wage calculations needed to be made.[1] As importantly, discovery must be proportional to the needs of the case, and must be “construed, administered and employed” by the court and the parties to secure the “just, speedy and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.” Fed. Rs. Civ. Proc. 1 and 26(b)(2).

         Notwithstanding the relatively straightforward nature of this claim, Plaintiffs have propounded extensive and far-reaching written discovery. For their part, until fairly recently, Defendants' chief discovery response has been to object. Not surprisingly given those dynamics, there have been many discovery disputes in this case, as well as telephone conferences and a hearing to attempt resolution of them.

         An extensive hearing was held on August 7, 2018 addressing what the Court assumed were the remaining areas of disagreement. (ECF No. 53). Additionally, the Court conducted a follow-up telephone conference on those issues with the parties on September 18, 2018, giving further guidance and instructing the parties to meet and confer in light of that guidance. (ECF No. 62). As stated by the Court at that time:

In the unlikely event that the parties cannot successfully work through these issues on their own, the parties may submit letters to the Court by October 12, 2018 of no more than five pages, outlining any remaining areas of dispute.

(Id. at 3).[2] The Court also ordered that no further written discovery could be propounded absent mutual consent or Court approval. (Id.).

         Unfortunately, that has proven to be wishful thinking. Now pending before the Court is a letter from Plaintiffs outlining various shortcomings in Defendants' promised production, outlining remaining areas of disagreement, and, in the Court's view, in some areas expanding previous disagreements well beyond the Court's expectation. (ECF No. 65). Defendants filed a response to that letter. (ECF No. 66). Plaintiffs filed a second letter, containing a rebuttal to Defendants' position and adding yet more areas of disagreement. (ECF No. 67). Plaintiffs also request an another 90-day extension of the December 6, 2018 discovery deadline to accommodate the production of the additional information they seek, as well as to conduct depositions. Plaintiffs have also requested a hearing.

         II. MATTERS FOR WHICH NO HEARING IS NECESSARY

         The Court finds no hearing is necessary to address the issues set forth below.

         A. Personnel Files/Evaluations; Paystubs; Stores Opened; and ...


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