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Bimbo Bakery Slammed for Discovery Requests

(CN) - Independent contractors pursuing labor claims against the nationwide baked goods dealer Bimbo need not sit for 1,300 hours of deposition, a federal judge ruled.

Class representatives Quinn Scott, Ronald Sochacki, William Davenport, Robert Dando and Kevin Kazarnowicz drive delivery trucks for Bimbo Bakeries USA and Bimbo Foods Bakeries. Though Bimbo classified them as "independent contractors," the drivers said it treats them as its "employees" by controlling and managing their work.

Their 2010 federal class action says Bimbo misclassified them and denied them certain rights, privileges, and benefits owed to employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Pennsylvania Minimum Wage Act.

The class received conditional certification and has been in discovery, but Bimbo's requests have caused some consternation for U.S. District Judge Mitchell Goldberg in Philadelphia.

Goldberg concluded last week that it would be "unreasonable and overly burdensome" for the baker to depose the 650 opt-in plaintiffs.

When he reprimanded Bimbo in October for a discovery strategy that "seemed designed to overwhelm plaintiffs' counsel," Bimbo insisted that its proposed discovery would fly in most courts, according to the ruling.

Goldberg adopted the plaintiffs' position that discovery should proceed in phases.

"We disagree with defendants that the scope of discovery should include a long, 'non-exhaustive list of subjects,' that would investigate the merits of plaintiffs' claims," the 11-page opinion states. "Discovery on this expansive list of topics should be addressed during the next phase of discovery, after a motion to decertify has been brought and decided."

Bimbo's written discovery proposal also failed.

"Written discovery propounded upon a representative sampling of opt-in plaintiffs appropriately balances the needs of defendants and also takes into account the burden to plaintiffs and their counsel, a factor that seems to be ignored by defendants," Goldberg wrote. "Accordingly, we find that plaintiffs' proposed limitation that interrogatories may be served on no more than 10 percent of the final total of opt-ins would adequately strike this balance."

The judge threw out Bimbo's arguments regarding deposition, as well.

"We find defendants' position on the number of depositions to be entirely unreasonable," he wrote. "Assuming that each deposition lasts five hours, defendants' proposal would result in 1300 hours of deposition time, which would require 162.5, eight-hour work days to complete. This number is completely unnecessary, would likely result in duplicative data and would place an incredible burden upon plaintiffs' counsel."

The plaintiffs' deposition proposal fared better.

"We find plaintiffs' suggested limitation of deposing no more than 15 opt-in plaintiffs to be appropriate," the ruling states. "A total of 20 depositions should more than meet defendants' needs in determining whether the plaintiffs are similarly situated for the purposes of preparing a motion to decertify."

Goldberg also entered a discovery schedule to be completed by June 14, 2013.

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