United States District Court, W.D. Washington, Tacoma
SYBILLA RANDOLPH, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
CENTENE MANAGEMENT CO., Defendant.
ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR A PROTECTIVE ORDER AND DENYING AS MOOT DENFENDANT'S MOTION FOR RELIEF FROM DEADLINE
BENJAMIN H. SETTLE, District Judge.
This matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff Sybilla Randolph's ("Randolph") motion for a protective order (Dkt. 31) and Defendant Centene Management Co.'s ("Centene") motion for relief from deadline (Dkt. 32). The Court has considered the pleadings filed in support of and in opposition to the motions and the remainder of the file and hereby grants Randolph's motion and denies Centene's motion as moot for the reasons stated herein.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On September 12, 2014, Randolph filed a Fair Labor Standards Act ("FLSA") collective action against Centene. Dkt. 1. Randolph alleges that Centene failed to pay overtime compensation to Randolph and the putative class members, all of whom are or were employed by Centene as utilization review nurses. Id. Thus far, nineteen other individuals have consented to join Randolph's suit as plaintiffs ("opt-in Plaintiffs"). Dkts. 17-22, 25, 27-28, 30, 47.
On December 8, 2014, the parties agreed to toll the statute of limitations for potential class members while the parties participated in mediation. Dkt. 15. Following an unsuccessful mediation conference, the parties resumed active litigation. The tolling agreement remained in place. See Dkt. 15 at 3; Dkt. 31-2, Declaration of Paul Lukas ("Lukas Dec."), Ex. C.
On February 13, 2015, the parties conducted their Rule 26(f) conference. Dkt. 26. Between February 18 and March 18, 2015, Centene served written discovery on Randolph and the opt-in Plaintiffs. Lukas Dec., Ex. A.
On March 2, 2015, the parties met and conferred about how to proceed in the case, including the timing of Randolph's motion for conditional class certification and Randolph's intention to seek a protective order. Lukas Dec. ¶ 5. On March 12, 2015, Centene terminated the tolling agreement. Lukas Dec., Ex. C. That same day, Randolph moved for conditional class certification. Dkt. 29.
On March 19, 2015, Randolph moved for a protective order to prevent Centene from conducting discovery of the opt-in Plaintiffs before the Court rules on Randolph's motion for conditional certification. Dkt. 31. On March 25, 2015, Centene responded. Dkt. 37. On March 27, 2015, Randolph replied. Dkt. 40.
On March 19, 2015, Centene moved for an extension of time to conduct discovery of the opt-in Plaintiffs and respond to Randolph's motion for conditional certification. Dkt. 32. On March 25, 2015, Randolph responded. Dkt. 36. On March 27, 2015, Centene replied. Dkt. 39.
On March 30, 2015, Centene responded to Randolph's motion for conditional certification. Dkt. 41. On April 3, 2015, Randolph replied. Dkt. 46. The Court has not yet ruled on Randolph's motion for conditional certification.
The instant motions concern whether Centene may conduct discovery of the opt-in Plaintiffs before the Court rules on Randolph's pending motion for conditional certification. Dkts. 31, 32. The Court reserves ruling on Randolph's motion for conditional certification.
A. Collective Action Certification
Although the Court reserves ruling on Randolph's motion for conditional certification, an overview of the certification process is relevant to the instant motions. Under the FLSA, a plaintiff may bring a collective action on behalf of herself and other "similarly situated" employees. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b). To certify a collective action, the plaintiff must show that she and the putative class members are "similarly situated." In re Wells Fargo Home Mortg. Overtime Pay Litig., 527 F.Supp.2d 1053, 1070 (N.D. Cal. 2007). District courts in this circuit apply a two-step approach to determine whether a collective action should be certified. See, e.g., Bollinger v. Residential Capital, LLC, 761 F.Supp.2d 1114, 1119 (W.D. Wash. 2011); Khadera ...