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Grantham v. SSC Colorado Springs Cedarwood Operating Company LLC

United States District Court, D. Colorado

October 31, 2019

VONNA GRANTHAM, Plaintiff/Counter-Defendant
v.
SSC COLORADO SPRINGS CEDARWOOD OPERATING COMPANY LLC d/b/a Cedarwood Health Care Center, Defendant/Counter-Plaintiff

          ORDER

          Kathleen M Tafoya United States Magistrate Judge

         This matter is before the court on Plaintiff's “Motion to Amend Complaint Pursuant to F.R.C.P. 15(a).” ([“Motion”], Doc. No. 53.) Defendant has responded in opposition to Plaintiff's motion, and Plaintiff has replied. ([“Response”], Doc. No. 54; [“Reply”], Doc. No. 55.)

         STATEMENT OF THE CASE

         Plaintiff Vonna Grantham brings this lawsuit against her former employer, Defendant SSC Colorado Springs Cedarwood Operating Company d/b/a Cedarwood Health Care Center, alleging violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 [“ADEA”], 29 U.S.C. § 621 et seq., and the Americans with Disabilities Act [“ADA”], 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq.. ([“Complaint”], Doc. No. 1.)

         Plaintiff, who is sixty-seven years old, is said to suffer from “severe left knee tricompartmental degenerative disease, ” stemming from a work-related injury. (Id. at ¶¶ 6-7, 11.) In August 2016, Plaintiff's doctor reportedly “medically restricted [her] from lifting over 20 pounds, ” because of her condition. (Id. at ¶¶ 8, 11, 13.) At that time, Plaintiff was employed by Defendant.[1] (See Id. at ¶¶ 12-13.)

         According to the Complaint, on September 3, 2016, Plaintiff informed her supervisor, Ms. Waters, of her medical prognosis, and requested “assign[ment] to a position which did not require her to exceed her lifting restriction.” (Id. at ¶¶ 13, 17.) Ms. Waters, in response, allegedly “refused to accommodate [Plaintiff]'s disability by assigning her to a different position, ” and instead, “insisted” that Plaintiff return to work as a “CNA, ” even though the position would require Plaintiff “to lift patients four or five times a shift.” (Id. at ¶¶ 14-15, 19.) Plaintiff further alleges that Ms. Waters “took her off the schedule completely after she requested a reasonable accommodation.” (Id. at ¶ 19.)

         Over the next few months, Plaintiff reportedly continued to ask her supervisor for an alternative work assignment, but to no avail. (Id. at ¶¶ 17-18, 22, 24.) In addition, Plaintiff alleges that her supervisor refused to let her apply for a receptionist position available with Defendant. (Id. at ¶ 25-27.) Plaintiff claims that Defendant ultimately hired a “substantially younger employee” for that position. (Id. at ¶ 28.)

         Based on these allegations, on December 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination against Defendant with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [“EEOC”]. (Id. at ¶ 3.) After receiving notice of her right to sue, Plaintiff thereafter commenced this lawsuit, on August 15, 2018, asserting claims against Defendant for age and disability discrimination. (Id. at ¶¶ 4-5, 30-44.) Plaintiff seeks monetary damages, as well as injunctive relief. (Id. at 6.)

         On September 23, 2019, Plaintiff filed a motion for leave to amend her complaint, asking to add SavaSeniorCare Administrative Services, LLC [“Sava”] as a defendant.[2] (Mot. 1.) Plaintiff argues that she should be allowed to amend her complaint, under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2), because, at all times relevant to her claims, Sava was her “joint employer.” (Id. at 2.) In addition, Plaintiff contends that Defendant “has gone to great lengths to conceal the identities of the persons or entities who made the decisions not to accommodate [Plaintiff]'s disability.” (Id. at 3.) She claims to have only recently identified Sava as an entity “whose employees directed the actions of” Defendant.[3] (Id. at 3-4.)

         The proposed Amended Complaint, attached as an exhibit to Plaintiff's motion, does add Sava as a defendant, but includes no new causes of action or requests for relief. ([“Proposed Amended Complaint”], Mot. Ex. 9.) In the proposed Amended Complaint, Plaintiff alleges that Sava “directed and controlled” the “terms and conditions” of her employment with Defendant. (Id. at ¶ 32.) Plaintiff alleges, specifically, that Sava “published and implemented” Defendant's “policies and practices for accommodating disabilities;” that it “determined” whether Defendant's employees would “be accommodated with light duty positions;” and that it “performed significant human resources functions” for Defendant, including “promulgating work rules and maintaining personnel records for employees.” (Id. at ¶¶ 33-34, 36.) Plaintiff further alleges, in the proposed pleading, that Sava was the “decision maker[]” with respect to the denial of her requests for disability accommodations and for “alternative employment.” (Id. at ¶ 38.) In addition, Plaintiff alleges that her employment with Defendant was “involuntar[ily] terminat[ed]” by Sava, on January 9, 2019. (Id.)

         STANDARD OF REVIEW

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a), which applies here, [4] provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave [to amend] when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The rule's purpose “is to provide litigants the maximum opportunity for each claim to be decided on the merits rather than on procedural niceties.” Minter v. Prime Equip., 451 F.3d 1196, 1204 (10th Cir. 2006) (internal quotations omitted). Therefore, “[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.” Bylin v. Billings, 568 F.3d 1224, 1229 (10th Cir. 2009) (quoting Frank v. U.S. West, Inc., 3 F.3d 1357, 1365 (10th Cir. 1993)); see Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962) (“If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claims on the merits.”).

         ANALYSIS

         Defendant opposes Plaintiff's motion to amend on three grounds. (Resp. 1.) First, Defendant argues that the proposed amendment would be futile, because Plaintiff failed to exhaust her administrative remedies with respect to Sava. (Id. at 3-5.) Specifically, Defendant contends that Plaintiff neglected to file an EEOC charge of discrimination against Sava before initiating this lawsuit. (Id. at 4.) In addition, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's motion is the product of undue delay, because Plaintiff “has known of the alleged factual basis for adding Sava for over three years.” (Id. at 5-7.) Finally, Defendant ...


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