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Aguilar v. Management & Training Corporation

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

August 1, 2017

MARISELA AGUILAR, et al., Plaintiffs,


         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiffs’ Opposed Motion Seeking Leave to File Second Amended Complaint, filed June 30, 2017 (Doc. 150). Having reviewed the parties’ briefs and applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiffs’ motion is not well-taken and, therefore, is denied.


         This is a collective/class action lawsuit filed by a group of over 20 current or former employees of Defendant (“MTC”) who claim they were not paid for some of their hours worked on assignment for MTC at the Otero County Prison Facility near Chaparral, New Mexico. The lawsuit asserts claims for unpaid wages and overtime, as well as other statutory damages and the recovery of attorneys’ fees, under the Fair Labor Standards Act 29 U.S.C. §§ 201-219 (“FLSA”) and/or the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act, N.M.S.A. §§ 50-4-1 to 50-4-33 (“NMMWA”).


         As described by Plaintiffs, the proposed Second Amended Complaint withdraws claims for unpaid compensation related to hospital duty time because they have learned that this claim is infrequent and of nominal value. The proposed complaint also clarifies that Plaintiffs’ claims for improper automatic deductions for meal breaks are in fact, part of the unpaid time at issue when Transport Officers are escorting prisoners to and from that appointments outside the prison. A small number of Detention Officers are assigned at any given time to work as Transport Officers, who have the same primary duties and rate of pay as Transport Officers when assigned this task.

         The proposed Second Amended Complaint also makes some minor non-substantive corrections sand clarifications, such as:

a. eliminating the specific number of named plaintiffs and updating some nonsubstantive matters, such as the fact Defendant was already served or correcting a typographical error;
b. using the name “detention officer” instead of “guards”;
c. clarifying facts related to Plaintiffs’ pre- and post-shift claims (see Pltffs’ Ex. A, ¶¶20 & 26);[1] and
d. adding one sentence to the rounding allegation in ¶27 of the proposed complaint (Pltffs’ Ex. A).

         I. Legal Standard

         A party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party’s written consent of the court. Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(a)(2). The Court is directed to “freely give leave when justice so requires.” Id. Although leave to amend is generally freely granted, it will not be permitted where the proposed amendment will be futile, or where the request is untimely and unduly prejudicial to the opposing part. Castleglen, Inc., et al. v. R.T.C., 984 F.2d 1571 (10th Cir. 1993).

         II. Analysis

         Plaintiffs contend that the proposed amendment of the current complaint is neither untimely, prejudicial nor futile. Defendant does not oppose the withdrawal of the hospital duty claim, but otherwise opposes the amendment, contending that the motion is late and lacks justification.

         To begin with, Defendant contends that some of the changes proposed by Plaintiffs are essentially stylistic, are not necessary and therefore do not warrant a new complaint, for example where the proposed language notes that a few Plaintiffs have been dismissed since the first amended complaint was filed, and that there are no longer 26 named Plaintiffs. The Court agrees with Defendant that many of the proposed changes are unimportant and so these proposed changes in themselves are not sufficient as a basis to grant Plaintiffs’ motion. As Defendant notes, the main event in this motion is the claim related to an automatic deduction for meal breaks. As the analysis will unfold below, the Court finds some merit to Defendant’s arguments on the timeliness and prejudicial impact of Plaintiffs’ motion, but is most persuaded by Defendant’s argument on the issue of futility.

         A. Timeliness

         Untimeliness of a plaintiff's motion in itself can be a sufficient reason to deny leave to amend, particularly when the movant provides no adequate explanation for the delay. Panis v. Mission Hills Bank, N.A., 60 F.3d 1486, 1495 (10th Cir.1995). No finding of a prejudice to the opposing party is required. Woolsey v. Marion Lab., Inc., 934 F.2d 1452, 1462 (10th Cir.1991). “The longer the delay, the more likely the motion to amend will be denied, as protracted delay, with its attendant burdens on the opponent and the court, is itself a sufficient reason for the court to withhold permission to amend.” Minter v. Prime Equipment Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1205 (10th Cir. 2006).

         Defendant argues that Plaintiffs’ request is late because it was due over one year ago. The most recent deadline for filing a motion to amend was June 15, 2016, according to an Order Setting Pretrial Deadlines (Doc. 20). Because Plaintiffs’ request to amend comes after this deadline, Defendant contends that Plaintiffs must now show (1) “good cause” for seeking modification under Rule 16(b)(4) and (2) satisfaction of the Rule 15(a) standard. See Gorsuch, Ltd., B.C. v. Wells Fargo Nat. Bank Ass’n, 771 F.3d 1230, 1240 (10th Cir. 2014) (where plaintiffs did not satisfy Rule 16 standard, court did not consider Rule 15 standard). In Gorsuch, however, the Tenth Circuit noted that district courts in the circuit have imposed a good cause requirement when parties seek to amend their pleadings after a scheduling order deadline, but that the Tenth Circuit has “not yet expressly ratified that standard.” Id. This Court therefore declines to adopt this standard here for that reason, and will instead proceed with this analysis under a Rule 15(a) analysis.

         Plaintiffs claim that the current amended complaint already asserts the meal break claims, but that they were forced to file a formal motion because Defendants took the position that the current complaint should be construed to mean that meal break claims were not pled at all. See Doc. 150 at 2; at 4, n.2. Defendant has a different recollection, claiming that at the January 2017 depositions, Plaintiffs had considered some type of amended complaint at that time but decided against it because it was “already late” for amendment. See Doc. 158 at 6, n.3. Plaintiffs also take what the Court considers to be a somewhat inconsistent position, contending that detailed facts regarding the unpaid meal break claims did not emerge until a May 2017 deposition.[2]The Court considers Plaintiffs’ position to be ...

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