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Strausser v. Gertrude Hawk Chocolate, Inc.

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 17, 2017

MARK STRAUSSER, Plaintiff
v.
GERTRUDE HAWK CHOCOLATES, INC., Defendant

          MEMORANDUM

          JAMES M. MUNLEY JUDGE

         Before the court for disposition is Plaintiff Mark Strausser's (hereinafter “plaintiff”) motion for leave to file a second amended complaint. For the reasons that follow, the court will grant plaintiff's motion.

         Background

         The instant employment discrimination action arises from plaintiff's employment with Defendant Gertrude Hawk Chocolates, Inc. (hereinafter “defendant”). Plaintiff worked as a full-time machine operator at defendant's production facility from February 2014 until his termination in January 2015. (Doc. 19, Am. Compl. ¶ 12).

         While employed with the defendant, plaintiff requested time off to seek inpatient treatment for alcoholism issues. (Id. ¶ 13). Defendant consented to plaintiff's request, and in late December 2014, plaintiff entered an inpatient rehabilitation facility. (Id. ¶ 14). Plaintiff remained at the rehabilitation facility for a month, successfully completing the treatment program. (Id. ¶ 16).

         Plaintiff returned to work in late January or early February 2015. (Id. ¶¶ 16-17). Upon his return, plaintiff's manager handed plaintiff a letter. (Id. ¶ 17). The letter stated that the defendant had assessed plaintiff a number of attendance points for the time plaintiff missed work during his rehabilitation stay. (Id.) Plaintiff's manager explained that he “didn't care where [plaintiff] was” and that the attendance points would stand. (Id. ¶ 20). Plaintiff responded that he would seek legal counsel on the appropriateness of being disciplined for his medical leave. (Id. ¶ 21). Plaintiff's manager, however, stated that he did not feel comfortable with plaintiff in his factory and, effective immediately, terminated plaintiff's employment due to lack of work. (Id. ¶¶ 22-23).

         In response to his termination, plaintiff filed a complaint and a first amended complaint. The first amended complaint asserts two causes of action. Plaintiff first alleges that the defendant failed to accommodate him, discriminated against him because of his disability, and terminated him in retaliation for requesting accommodations in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. § 12101, et seq. (hereinafter “ADA”). (Id. ¶¶ 26-30). Plaintiff's second cause of action claims the defendant failed to accommodate him, discriminated against him because of his disability, and terminated him in retaliation for requesting accommodations in violation of Pennsylvania's Human Relations Act, 43 Pa. Stat. Ann. § 951, et seq. (hereinafter “PHRA”). (Id. ¶¶ 43-45).

         On December 8, 2016, plaintiff filed a motion seeking leave to file a second amended complaint. (Doc. 26). Specifically, plaintiff seeks to add the disabilities of bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety to his previously stated disability of alcoholism. Defendant opposes plaintiff's motion. The parties briefed the issues, bringing the case to the present procedural posture.

         Jurisdiction

         As this case is brought pursuant to the ADA for unlawful employment discrimination, we have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 (“The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.”). The court has supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's state law claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a).

         Discussion

         Plaintiff seeks leave to file a second amended complaint to add the disabilities of bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety to his previously stated alcoholism disability. Plaintiff asserts these additional disabilities arise from the same December 2014 rehabilitation stay that treated his alcoholism. The defendant argues plaintiff failed to administratively exhaust his remedies regarding these additional disabilities, and therefore, the court must deny plaintiff's proposed amendment. Alternatively, the defendant contends plaintiff has unduly delayed moving for this amendment and that these additional disabilities will unfairly prejudice the defendant. After a careful review, the court agrees with the plaintiff and will allow him to file a second amended complaint.

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 provides that when a responsive pleading has been filed, a “party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Rule 15 counsels courts to “freely give leave [to amend a complaint] when justice so requires.” Id. Nonetheless, a district court may deny leave to amend a complaint if the amendment has been unduly delayed, would unduly prejudice the nonmoving party, or would be futile. Averbach v. Rival Mfg. Co., 879 F.2d 1196, 1203 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962)).

         Undue delay is established if a proposed amendment “plac[es] an unwarranted burden on the court” and the movant had an inappropriate motive for proposing it later rather than sooner. Adams v. Gould, Inc., 739 F.2d 858, 868 (3d Cir. 1984). The “mere existence of delay” alone is not sufficient. Merican, Inc. v. Caterpillar Tractor Co., 596 F.Supp. 697, 705 (E.D. Pa. 1984). Undue prejudice is established if the proposed amendment “plac[es] an unfair burden on the opposing party.” Adams, 739 F.2d at 868. A proposed amendment would be futile if such amendment would not withstand a motion to dismiss. Massarsky v. Gen. Motors Corp., 706 F.2d 111, 125 (3d Cir. 1983). ...


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