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Martinez v. Asian 328, LLC

United States District Court, District of Columbia

April 27, 2016

EDUARDO DUBON MARTINEZ et al. Plaintiffs,
v.
ASIAN 328, LLC et al. Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

G. MICHAEL HARVEY UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

Before the Court are two pending motions: (1) Plaintiffs’ motion to compel discovery responses from Defendants and for sanctions; and (2) Plaintiffs’ motion for an amended scheduling order. These motions are ripe for resolution. Upon consideration of the parties’ briefs and the entire record herein, [1] the Court will largely grant Plaintiffs’ motions.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Asian 328, LLC, through its owner, Defendant Ling Zheng, operates a Washington, D.C. restaurant known as “Asia 54.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 6-10. Plaintiffs worked for Defendants as kitchen laborers, which included duties such as cleaning, dishwashing, and basic food preparation. Id. ¶¶ 11, 12, 24, 25, 36, 37. Plaintiffs filed this action pursuant to the Fair Labor Standards Act, 29 U.S.C. § 201 et seq., and the District of Columbia Wage Payment and Collection Law, D.C. S.T. § 32-1301 et seq. Am. Compl. ¶ 2. In their First Amended Complaint, Plaintiffs allege that although they worked significant overtime hours, Defendants failed to pay them overtime wages. Id. ¶¶ 19, 20, 28, 29, 40, 41. Plaintiffs allege that Defendants owe them approximately $39, 000.00 in unpaid wages. See id. ¶¶ 22, 34, 43.

On February 22, 2016, the parties jointly moved for the Court to enter an amended scheduling order. Joint Motion for Second Amended Scheduling Order [Dkt. 35]. In addition to amending the typical deadlines for joinder and dispositive motions, the parties specifically requested that the Court enter an order requiring certain discovery responses from Defendants to be provided by specified deadlines. Id. at 1-2. The Court issued an amended scheduling order on February 23, 2016, which incorporated the specific deadlines the parties requested. Second Amended Scheduling Order [Dkt. 38]. In particular, the Court, consistent with the parties’ requests, ordered that the following discovery responses should be provided:

1. Defendants shall produce all of plaintiffs’ time and pay records, of whatever nature and in whatever form they exist, on or before March 7, 2016.
2. Defendant Asian 328, LLC shall produce its tax returns for the last three years on or before March 7, 2016.
3. Defendant Asian 328, LLC shall produce the full name and contact information of its accountant, as well as the name of the institution where it banks, on or before March 7, 2016.
4. Defendant Ling Chun Zheng shall produce full and complete responses to plaintiffs’ interrogatories and requests for production, propounded on January 22, 2016, on or before March 7, 2016.

Id. at 1-2. As in all of its scheduling orders, the Court ordered that “any request for an extension or enlargement of time . . . shall be by motion addressed to the Court.” Id. at 2.

On March 10, 2016, Plaintiffs contacted chambers to request a discovery status hearing regarding Defendants’ alleged failures to comply with the above deadlines. The Court held the requested hearing on March 22, 2016. At the hearing, Plaintiffs represented to the Court that Defendants had only partially responded to some of the discovery items listed in the Court’s Second Amended Scheduling Order and had totally failed to respond to others. Defendants claimed that they were still in the process of gathering responsive documents. Defendants offered no excuse for their failure to comply with deadlines which they themselves asked the Court to set. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Court authorized Plaintiffs to file a motion to compel the discovery responses they sought and to seek sanctions against Defendants for their failure to comply with the Court’s order.

Plaintiffs filed their motion to compel and for sanctions on March 29, 2016. That same day, Plaintiffs also filed a motion requesting another amended scheduling order. Per the Court’s Local Rules and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(d), Defendants’ responses to Plaintiffs’ motions were due on or before April 15, 2016. See L. Civ. R. 7(b) (providing 14 days for responses to motions); Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(d) (adding three days to any response time where, among other circumstances, a party is served by electronic means). Defendants did not file a response to either of Plaintiffs’ pending motions by the April 15, 2016, deadline. Instead, on that day, Defendants filed a motion requesting an extension to April 18, 2016, to file their response to Plaintiffs’ motion to compel and for sanctions. Mot. for Ext. at 1. Defendants claimed that their counsel “was in the midst of preparing a brief for the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals and was unable to devote sufficient time to timely respond to the Plaintiffs’ motion.” Id. Defendants’ motion made no reference whatsoever to Plaintiffs’ motion for an amended scheduling order. See id.

On April 18, 2016, the Court granted Defendants leave to file their opposition to Plaintiffs’ motion to compel and for sanctions on or before April 19, 2016. See Apr. 18, 2016 Minute Order. Defendants filed their opposition that same day. The opposition addresses only Plaintiffs’ request for sanctions, not Plaintiffs’ motion to compel discovery responses or motion for an amended scheduling order. See Sanctions Opp. at 1-3.

LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Motion to Compel

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), “[p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1). If a party does not respond to an interrogatory or request for production of documents, the requesting party may move for an order compelling disclosure of the withheld material. Id. 37(a). The party that brings the motion to compel “bears the initial burden of explaining how the requested information is relevant.” Jewish War Veterans of the United States of America, Inc. v. Gates, 506 F.Supp.2d 30, 42 (D.D.C. 2007). The burden then shifts to the non-moving party “to explain why discovery should not be permitted.” Id. ...


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