D.C. Superior Court Grants Summary Judgment to DC FOIA Requester Seeking Minimum Wage Compliance Reports

May 25, 2021

The D.C. Superior Court yesterday entered judgment in favor of a Freedom of Information Act requester seeking disclosure of minimum wage compliance records collected by the District of Columbia. Murphy Anderson attorneys Adam Breihan and Michael Anderson represented the Plaintiff, and DC Jobs With Justice, an economic justice organization fighting to end wage theft, collaborated on the case.

Plaintiff Christopher Bangs, a workers’ rights advocate, requested copies of tipped minimum wage reports that certain D.C. employers are required to submit to the Department of Employment Services. These are public records subject to the District’s Freedom of Information Act.  The Department of Employment Services refused to turn over complete reports. Bangs filed suit in D.C. Superior Court seeking to compel disclosure of the public records.

On May 24, 2021, Superior Court Judge Todd E. Edelman granted Plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment. Judge Edelman rejected the District’s assertion of the trade secrets and commercial information exemption, finding that the District’s “conclusory” statements and “rank speculation” did not satisfy its burden of demonstrating that disclosure of the tipped wage reports would result in substantial competitive harm to D.C. employers. Judge Edelman also ruled that the personal privacy exemption did not stand in the way of disclosure as the “extremely unlikely, or even fanciful” possibility of an invasion of privacy was outweighed by the “public’s cognizable interest in information that will ‘shed light on [the] agency’s performance of its statutory duties.’” Finding the asserted exemptions inapplicable, Judge Edelman concluded that the District “must disclose” the requested minimum wage compliance information.

The case is Bangs v. District of Columbia Department of Employment Services, 2020 CA 003799 B (D.C. Super. Ct. May 24, 2021).