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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Accentcare Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division

September 20, 2017

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
ACCENTCARE INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          SIDNEY A. FITZWATER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         The court must decide whether to grant plaintiff Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) leave to file an amended complaint even though the deadline for filing motions for leave to amend has expired. For the following reasons, the court grants the EEOC's motion.

         I

         Because this case is the subject of a prior opinion, EEOC v. AccentCare, Inc., 2017 WL 2691240 (N.D. Tex. June 21, 2017) (Fitzwater, J.) (“AccentCare I”), the court will recount only the background facts and procedural history that are necessary to understand the present decision.

         The EEOC filed this lawsuit on September 29, 2015 under Title I of the American with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., alleging that defendant AccentCare Inc. (“AccentCare”) refused to reasonably accommodate Alisia Beasley's (“Beasley's”) disability (Bipolar Disorder) and discriminated against her by terminating her employment because of her disability. On February 16, 2016 the court entered a scheduling order that set February 29, 2016 as the deadline for a party to file a motion for leave to amend the pleadings. On September 13, 2016 AccentCare moved for summary judgment, which the court granted in part and denied in part on June 14, 2017.

         On July 19, 2017 the EEOC filed the instant motion for leave to file an amended complaint. It seeks to amend ¶ 15, which alleges, in relevant part, that “Beasley informed her supervisor that she had seen her psychiatrist who took her off for an indefinite period of time.” Compl. ¶ 15.[1] The EEOC seeks to clarify its use of the term “indefinite” to summarize Beasley's email communication. The court held in AccentCare I that, “[u]nless and until the EEOC amends its complaint to change this allegation, the EEOC may not contradict its judicial admission that Beasley informed her supervisor that she had seen her psychiatrist, who took her off for an indefinite period of time.” AccentCare I, 2017 WL 2691240, at *4. The EEOC now seeks to amend ¶ 15 of the complaint to reflect that “Beasley informed Ms. Nelson that as a result of her medical condition, she would be out for an ‘extended amount of time.'” P. Br., Ex. 1 at 4.[2] The EEOC contends that it is seeking to clarify factual information of which AccentCare had previous knowledge, and that it is not seeking to allege new facts or assert new claims. AccentCare opposes the motion, contending that the EEOC has failed to explain the unreasonable delay in seeking to modify the scheduling order, and that AccentCare would be significantly prejudiced by the proposed amendment.

         II

          A

         When, as here, the deadline for seeking leave to amend pleadings has expired, a court considering a motion to amend must first determine whether to modify the scheduling order under the Rule 16(b)(4) good cause standard. See S & W Enters., L.L.C. v. SouthTrust Bank of Ala., N.A., 315 F.3d 533, 536 (5th Cir. 2003); Am. Tourmaline Fields v. Int'l Paper Co., 1998 WL 874825, at *1 (N.D. Tex. Dec. 7, 1998) (Fitzwater, J.). To meet the good cause standard, the moving party must show that, despite its diligence, it could not reasonably have met the scheduling order deadline. See S & W Enters., 315 F.3d at 535. If the movant satisfies the requirements of Rule 16(b)(4), the court must then determine whether to grant leave to amend under the more liberal standard of Rule 15(a)(2), which provides that “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Rule 15(a)(2); see S & W Enters., 315 F.3d at 536; Am. Tourmaline Fields, 1998 WL 874825, at * 1.

         The court assesses four factors when deciding whether to grant an untimely motion for leave to amend under Rule 16(b)(4): “(1) the explanation for the failure to timely move for leave to amend; (2) the importance of the amendment; (3) potential prejudice in allowing the amendment; and (4) the availability of a continuance to cure such prejudice.” S & W Enters., 315 F.3d at 536 (citation, internal quotation marks, and brackets omitted). The court considers the four factors holistically and “does not mechanically count the number of factors that favor each side.” EEOC v. Serv. Temps., Inc., 2009 WL 3294863, at *3 (N.D. Tex. Oct. 13, 2009) (Fitzwater, C.J.), aff'd, 679 F.3d 323 (5th Cir. 2012).

         B

         1

         The court first considers the EEOC's explanation for failing to timely file a motion for leave to amend. The EEOC contends that it did not realize until the court filed its memorandum opinion and order in AccentCare I that use of the term “indefinite” to summarize Beasley's email communication in ¶ 15 of the complaint may have created confusion for the court and the defendant. The EEOC maintains that, before the court issued its decision in AccentCare I, the EEOC “relied on the liberal pleading standards of Rule 8(a)(2)” and “believed any uncertainty in the term ‘indefinite' was addressed in [the] subsequent statements in paragraph 15 of the original complaint.” P. Br. 4. AccentCare responds that the EEOC was aware of the implications of the term “indefinite” and of AccentCare's reliance on the term “indefinite.” AccentCare also posits that the EEOC's belatedly seeking to modify the scheduling order does not concern a lack of prior awareness, but is, instead, based on the court's decision in AccentCare I, which sustained AccentCare's summary judgment objections, partially granted summary judgment, and recognized the EEOC's judicial admissions.

         Although the court agrees that the EEOC was aware before the deadline for filing motions for leave to amend of AccentCare's reliance on the term “indefinite” in ¶ 15 of the complaint, the EEOC has demonstrated that it only recently became aware of the implications of its use of the term “indefinite” to summarize Beasley's email communication. The EEOC only became aware through the court's decision in AccentCare I, which held that the EEOC was precluded from contradicting its judicial admission unless and until it amended its complaint to change this allegation. See AccentCare I, 2017 WL 2691240, at *4. Because the EEOC only became aware from AccentCare I of the potential consequences of its use ...


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