United States District Court, E.D. New York
For Plaintiff: Peter A. Romero, Esq., FRANK & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Farmingdale, New York.
For Defendants: Saul D. Zabell, Esq., ZABELL & ASSOCIATES, P.C., Bohemia, New York.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
LEONARD D. WEXLER,
United States District Judge
Plaintiffs, Oscar Rodriguez and Alexis Torres, bring this action to recover fro Defendants, The Pie of Port Jefferson Corporation and Kristen Pace, unpaid overtime wages for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week, pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act (" FLSA" ) and the New York Labor Law. Presently before the Court is Plaintiffs' appeal of the Order of Magistrate Judge Gary Brown of August 13, 2014, granting Defendants' motion to compel and directing Plaintiffs to respond to certain interrogatories relating to their immigration status. For the following reasons, Plaintiffs' objections are sustained and the Order of Magistrate Judge Brown is reversed.
I. Standard of Review
Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 72(a), a party has the option of objecting to a magistrate judge's order concerning any nondispositive pretrial matter. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). The district judge " must consider timely objections and modify or set aside any part of the order that is clearly erroneous or is contrary to law." Id. " Under this highly deferential standard of review, a district court may reverse the order only if 'on the entire evidence,' the district court is 'left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed.'" Gray v. City of New York, No. 10-CV-3039, at *7 (E.D.N.Y. June 17, 2013) (quoting Easley v. Cromartie, 532 U.S. 234, 242, 121 S.Ct. 1452, 149 L.Ed.2d 430 (2001)). " [A] party seeking to overturn a discovery order bears a heavy burden." AP Links, LLC v. Global Golf, Inc., No. 08-CV-1730, 2011 WL 888261, at *4 (E.D.N.Y. Mar. 14, 2011).
II. Magistrate Judge Brown's Order
On August 1, 2014, Defendants filed a motion to compel responses to interrogatories served upon Plaintiffs, which requested that Plaintiffs provide particularized and detailed information concerning their immigration status. Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the motion to compel on August 5, 2014.
On August 13, 2014, Magistrate Judge Brown issued an Order granting Defendants' motion to compel and directing Plaintiffs to respond to the interrogatories at issue " in accordance with and to the extent of"
Bermudez v. Karoline's International Restaurant Bakery Corp., No. CV 12-6245, 2013 WL 6146083 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 21, 2013). (Order of Brown, M.J. dated Aug. 13, 2014.) Plaintiffs filed their objections to Magistrate Judge Brown's Order on August 26, 2014.
II. Discovery Into Plaintiffs' Immigration Status
" Numerous lower courts have held that all employees, regardless of their immigration status, are protected by the provisions of the FLSA."
Flores v. Amigon, 233 F.Supp.2d 462, 463 (E.D.N.Y. 2002) (collecting cases). Accordingly, " courts addressing the issue of whether defendants should be allowed to discover plaintiff-workers' immigration status in cases seeking unpaid wages brought under the FLSA have found such information to be undiscoverable." Liu v. Donna Karan Int'l, Inc., 207 F.Supp.2d 191, 192 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (citing cases); see also Rengifo v. Erevos
Enters., Inc., No. 06 Civ. 4266, 2007 WL 894376, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 20, 2007) (granting protective order barring defendants from inquiring about plaintiff's immigration status or social security number); Avila-Blum v. Casa De Cambio Delgado, 236 F.R.D. 190, 191-92 (S.D.N.Y. 2006) (overruling defendants' objections to magistrate's order that granted plaintiff a protective order barring defendants from inquiring into her immigration status); Topo v. Dhir, 210 F.R.D. 76, 79 (S.D.N.Y. 2002) (finding that plaintiff had demonstrated good cause to warrant a protective order barring defendants from inquiring into her immigration status). Specifically, courts have noted that permitting inquiry into a party's immigration status, when not relevant, presents a " danger of intimidation [that] would inhibit plaintiffs in pursuing their rights."