Case Law

Violation of Privacy is Not a Complete Defense: Supreme Court of California Grants Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Contact Information of Fellow Employees

California

Williams v. Superior Court, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 5124 (Cal. July 13, 2017) In this employment class action, the plaintiff, who was a retail employee, brought suit against the defendant under the Private Attorneys General Act, alleging wage and hour violations. The plaintiff sought the contact information of fellow California employees from all of the defendant’s stores. In response, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s request was overly broad, unduly burdensome and an invasion of the requested employees’ privacy. The plaintiff moved the court to compel the defendant to produce the contact information for all of its employees. The main issue of this case was whether the plaintiff’s request for information invaded the privacy of the defendant’s employees. To evaluate whether the employee’s privacy interests were a sufficient defense to withhold the information, the court turned to Cal. Const., art. I, § 3, which states although a compelling interest is required to justify an obvious invasion of privacy, with lesser interests, such as the contact information in question, the interests of disclosure must be weighed against consequences such disclosure. Further, the court noted various case law, which establishes that contact information is generally discoverable in order to avoid the defendant having a “monopoly on access to its customers or employees and their experiences…” The court found that there was not a privacy issue at stake and thus rejected the defendant’s argument and remanded the case for further proceedings. The information requested by the plaintiff was relevant and did not exceed the scope of discovery. “Thus, a privacy concern cannot be a complete bar against disclosure of information that the plaintiff sought.”

Keywords: privacy, contact information, disclosure