United States District Court, D. New Mexico
GRETCHEN VALENCIA, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,
ARMADA SKILLED HOME CARE OF NM, LLC, ARMADA HOME HEALTHCARE OF SOCORRO, LLC, and CHRISTOPHER TAPIA, Defendants.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
matter comes before the Court on Plaintiff's Opposed
Motion for Leave to File Amended Complaint and Memorandum in
Support, (“Motion to Amend”), filed May 31, 2019.
(Doc. 22). Defendant filed a response to the Motion on June
14, 2019, and Plaintiff filed a reply on June 28, 2019.
(Docs. 29 and 34). Having considered the Motion, the proposed
First Amended Collective and Class Action Complaint (Doc.
22-3), and the accompanying briefing, the Court grants the
Motion to Amend.
filed her original Collective and Class Action Complaint on
November 16, 2018, in which she alleged Defendants
misclassified her and similarly situated home health
clinicians as exempt from overtime wages in violation of the
Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”), 29 U.S.C.
§ 201, et seq., the New Mexico Minimum Wage Act
(“NMMWA”), 1978 § 50-4-20, et seq.,
and the New Mexico Wage Payment Act (“NMWPA”),
1978 § 50-4-1, et seq. (Doc. 1). On February
14, 2019, the Honorable Karen B. Molzen, the assigned
magistrate judge, held a scheduling conference and entered a
bifurcated scheduling order. (Doc. 17). The parties'
deadline for discovery relating to conditional class
certification under the FLSA was May 8, 2019, and
Plaintiff's deadline to file a motion for conditional
certification was June 5, 2019. Id.
Motion to Amend, Plaintiff states that upon review of
discovery received from Defendants in March and May 2019, she
determined that she was classified as
“non-exempt” rather than “exempt”
from overtime. (Doc. 22) at 2-3. Plaintiff also states that
Defendants' discovery responses revealed additional
categories of home health workers who Defendants
impermissibly denied overtime pay. (Doc. 22) at 2-3.
Therefore, Plaintiff seeks to amend her Complaint to allege
that she was classified as a non-exempt employee, and that
Defendants failed to pay her and other similarly situated
home health workers overtime compensation required under the
FLSA and New Mexico wage laws. See (Doc. 22-2) at 1,
5 (redlined copy of First Amended Collective and Class Action
Complaint (“First Amended Complaint”)). Plaintiff
further seeks to add as affected employees the categories of
Social Workers, Certified Nursing Assistants, Certified
Therapy Assistants, Home Health Aides, and Therapy Aides.
See Id. at 5. Plaintiff does not seek to add any
claims. See Id. at 8-20.
response, Defendants contend Plaintiff's Motion to Amend
is untimely because Plaintiff should have been able to
determine that she needed to amend her complaint much
earlier. (Doc. 29) at 4. Defendants argue they are prejudiced
by Plaintiff's delay because they must respond to
Plaintiff's Motion for Conditional Certification which is
based on the putative class described in the original
complaint which Plaintiff “admits is defective.”
Id. Defendants further argue Plaintiff's
amendments are futile because Plaintiff “seeks to
certify a class that is too broad and with whom she is not
similarly situated.” Id.
reply, Plaintiff argues her Motion to Amend meets the liberal
standard for amendment set forth in Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2).
(Doc. 34) at 1. Plaintiff further contends the motion is not
untimely, does not prejudice Defendants, and is not futile.
Id. at 2-5.
Standard of Review
Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2), “a party may amend its pleadings
only with the opposing party's written consent or the
court's leave, ” and “[t]he court should
freely give leave when justice so requires.” As the
Tenth Circuit has explained, “[r]efusing leave to amend
is generally only justified upon a showing of undue delay,
undue prejudice to the opposing party, bad faith or dilatory
motive, failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously
allowed, or futility of amendment.” Frank v. U.S.
West, Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365-66 (10th Cir. 1993)
(citations omitted). The purpose of Rule 15 is to provide
litigants “the maximum opportunity for each claim to be
decided on its merits rather than on procedural
niceties.” Hardin v. Manitowec-Forsythe Corp.,
691 F.2d 449, 456 (10th Cir. 1982).
oppose Plaintiff's Motion to Amend on the basis that it
is untimely, Defendants would be prejudiced by the amendment,
and the claims asserted in the First Amended Complaint are
futile. (Doc. 29) at 4-6.
delay” is one of the justifications for denying a
motion to amend. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178,
182 (1962). The emphasis is on whether the delay was undue,
and “[l]ateness does not of itself justify the denial
of the amendment.” R.E.B., Inc. v. Ralston
Purina Co., 525 F.2d 749, 751 (10th Cir. 1975).
In addition, Rule 15(a) does not restrict a party's
ability to amend its pleadings to a particular stage in a
case. See Minter v. Prime Equip. Co., 451 F.3d 1196,
1205 (10th Cir. 2006).
assert Plaintiff's Motion to Amend is untimely because
“[f]rom a review of the Answer and the discovery
responses, Plaintiff should have been able to determine
amendment of the Initial Complaint was necessary long before
the Motion to Amend was filed.” (Doc. 29) at 4.
Plaintiff, however, states that upon receipt of
Defendants' discovery responses, she promptly reviewed
the documents, drafted her amendments, and sought
Defendants' counsel's consent to amend. (Doc. 34) at
2. Plaintiff further notes that Defendants' counsel did
not respond to her request for consent for twenty days and
only responded after being asked a second time. Id.
(citing e-mail correspondence at Doc. 34-1).
filed the Motion to Amend within weeks of receiving
Defendants' discovery responses, and prior to her
deadline to file a motion for conditional certification.
Moreover, no deadline was set for the parties to amend their
pleadings, so Rule 16 is not implicated. See Fed. R.
Civ. P. 16(b)(4) (providing scheduling order “may be
modified only for good cause and with the judge's
consent”). Defendants argue Plaintiff could have filed
her Motion to Amend earlier because, in Defendants'
answer to the original complaint, they denied Plaintiff's
allegation that she was classified as exempt under the FLSA.
(Doc. 29) at 4. The Court disagrees that Plaintiff was
required to move to amend the complaint based on this denial.
Instead, the Court finds it reasonable that Plaintiff waited
to review discovery from Defendants that included
Plaintiff's personnel file and Defendants' employee
handbook before moving to amend. See (Doc. 22) at
2). Moreover, Plaintiff's proposed amendments do not only
pertain to Plaintiff's classification as ...