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Montoya v. Jacobs Technology Inc

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

February 2, 2018



         THIS MATTER comes before the Court upon Plaintiff's Opposed Motion for Leave to Amend His Complaint, filed December 22, 2017 (Doc. 40). Having reviewed the parties' briefs and applicable law, the Court finds that Plaintiff's motion is not well-taken and, therefore, is denied.


         This is an employment discrimination claim. Plaintiff is a former employee of Jacobs Technology, Inc. (“Jacobs”) and in the current Amended Complaint (Doc. 6) alleges discrimination, retaliation, wrongful termination and hostile work environment, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C. §12101 et seq., and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621-632. Plaintiff seeks to amend the complaint to include a claim brought under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, 29 U.S.C. §2615(a)(1), (2) (“FMLA”).


         Under Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), a court should freely give leave to amend pleadings “when justice so requires.” Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); In re Thornburg Mortg., Inc. Sec. Litig., 265 F.R.D. 571, 579-80 (D.N.M. 2010). The decision about whether to provide a party leave to amend pleadings “is within the discretion of the trial court.” Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 451 F.3d 1196, 1204 (10th Cir. 2006). 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).

         Defendant contends that the motion to amend should be denied on all three grounds. Plaintiff claims that he is not seeking to add a new cause of action and that his FMLA claim, and although it may be outside the allowable FMLA limitations period, is nevertheless timely because it relates back to the original complaint, which was filed in state court on November 12, 2016. Following removal of this case to federal court, Plaintiff amended the complaint on February 7, 2017. Discovery in this case ended on December 18, 2017. Doc. 24.

         During Plaintiff's deposition in this case, on November 15, 2017, Defendant's counsel asked Plaintiff questions about his FMLA leave in order to understand whether he claimed any medical condition that would support his ADA claims. Plaintiff explained that he had given his employer notice for leave pursuant to the FMLA and that the human resources director had received the notice on January 5, 2015. The notice requested FMLA leave for the delivery of his child and post-partum recovery for his wife and that the anticipated delivery date was July 22, 2015. Doc. 40-1 at 1 (Ex. 42). Plaintiff also testified at his deposition that the company's branch manager called Plaintiff on July 17, 2015 to discharge him as he was driving his wife to the delivery room to deliver his child. Ex. A at 163-64.

         At the end of the scheduled depositions, Plaintiff's counsel advised that Plaintiff intended to seek leave to amend the complaint to add claims under the FMLA. Plaintiff filed the motion to amend over one month later, seeking to add an FMLA claim to the complaint.

         According to the current complaint, see Doc. 6, Plaintiff claims that he was demoted in October 2010 because of his age when he was transferred from his position in Special Operations to Field Operations, and that Defendant's response to his complaints of discrimination was met with threats of disciplinary action and a hostile work environment.[1] Then, in July 2015, Plaintiff became injured when another Jacobs employee ran over him with a truck. As a result of the work-related injury, Plaintiff became disabled and felt that he was regarded by Defendant as disabled. Plaintiff contends that Defendant's subsequent discharge of Plaintiff was pretextual for discriminatory motives on the basis of age and disability.

         The Court addresses first whether the motion is untimely, prejudicial and/or futile, and then considers whether the amendment may relate back to the original pleading to avoid the untimeliness issue.

         I. Prejudice to Defendant

         Defendant claims it would be substantially prejudiced by the allowance of the amendment in light of the advanced stage of this case. Plaintiff failed to include any cause of action related to an FMLA claim until December 22, 2017, over five months following his deadline to amend pleadings and four days after the close of discovery.

         Plaintiff's delay in filing this motion does not appear to be egregious on its face; after all, the dispositive motions deadline expired only recently on January 18, 2018, about one month after Plaintiff filed the motion to amend. Doc. 24. Nevertheless, the Court finds that the delay poses no small impediment to Plaintiff's lately-filed request to amend the complaint when considered in context: Plaintiff admittedly had knowledge of all the background facts giving rise to a potential FMLA claim as far back as July 17, 2015, the date of his termination. In his deposition, Plaintiff stated that he had the “perception” that “the company was tired of [him] taking leave.” Doc. 45-1 (Ex. A) at 91. Also, this motion was made after a five-month discovery period had ended. Defendant is already underway in the preparation of dispositive arguments on Plaintiff's claims, having recently filed its motion for summary judgment. Doc. 44.

         There really is little explanation for Plaintiff's failure to assert an FMLA claim much earlier than what he has done, given that all the necessary facts and “perceptions” have been known to Plaintiff since his termination in July of 2015, according to his own testimony. See Ritchie U.S. ex rel. Ritchie v. Lockheed Martin Corp., 558 F.3d 1161, 1166 (10th Cir. 2009) (finding that motion to amend was untimely and unduly prejudicial where it was made after close of a long discovery period and after defendant had filed a motion for summary judgment premised on the releases signed by plaintiff). The ...

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