Nicholas Malfitano Jan. 19, 2016, 4:14pm


ALLENTOWN – A local hospital has been compelled to provide documents on the procedures associated with compensating its employees for meal breaks, in a prospective class action suit brought by those same employees.

The employees’ October 2013 complaint alleges Reading Hospital violated the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by failing to pay plaintiffs’ wages owed for work performed during their unpaid meal breaks. Amanda Neifert and Evelyn Santoro originally filed the suit, but attorneys substituted colleague Susan Bell as the lawsuit's named plaintiff in December 2014.

As part of discovery procedure, Bell sought Reading Hospital to provide various documentation regarding compensation for meal breaks and for the hospital to provide top-level information on 15 subjects in a designee deposition notice – records and information for whose request the hospital characterized as “overly broad and burdensome” and “outside the scope of proportional discovery," and filed a protective order to prevent their disclosure.

Per Pennsylvania’s Rules of Civil Procedure, Judge Henry S. Perkin of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania opted to consider a number of factors when deciding whether Bell’s information requests were in fact burdensome or disproportionate to the boundaries of discovery. 

These factors included: “Relevance to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties’ relative access to relevant information, the parties’ resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.”

In reference to these factors, Perkin found the discovery requests to be “relevant and appropriate," the at-stake costs of $5,000 to $10,000 for each of the opt-in plaintiffs as not exceeding the amount in controversy, and the resources/information being asked for by Bell as being pertinent and necessary to the question of class certification – a factor allowing for greater consideration and interest in a case of this nature, according to Perkin. 

“We find the requested discovery to be relevant, and not unduly burdensome or disproportionate,” Perkin said. “Based on the foregoing, we find that there is no basis to conclude that plaintiffs’ pending discovery requests pose a burden so unfairly ‘disproportionate’ as to require a protective order.”

Perkin denied Reading Hospital's motion for a protective order, and ordered Reading Hospital to produce all documents it used to “provide orientation or training on plaintiffs’ entitlement to wages for missed meal breaks, and any procedures for requesting such wages”; “provide orientation or training on plaintiffs’ entitlement to wages for interrupted meal breaks, and any procedures for requesting such wages”; and “its final analysis and report concerning how frequently its hourly employees missed a meal break, or experienced an interrupted meal break performed in conjunction with its roll-out of the Kronos [electronic time clocks] attestation” within 15 days of his ruling.

Further, Perkin granted Bell’s motion to compel Reading Hospital to provide “department-level information” on 15 topics covered in the plaintiff’s designee deposition notice.

The plaintiff is represented by David J. Cohen, in Philadelphia.

The defendant is represented by Elizabeth A. Malloy, James J. Sullivan Jr., Jeffrey Francis Klamut and Rose E. Isard of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, also in Philadelphia.

U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania case 5:13-cv-05927

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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