United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER AND REASONS
J. BARBIER, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court is a Motion for Summary Judgment
(Rec. Doc. 23) filed by Defendant MMO
Behavioral Health Systems, LLC (“MMO”) and a
Motion to Dismiss (Rec. Doc. 36)
filed by Defendant Greenbrier Hospital, LLC
(“Greenbrier”). Plaintiff, Janice Williams
(“Plaintiff”), opposes both motions (Rec. Docs.
24, 44). Greenbrier filed a reply (Rec. Doc. 48) to
Plaintiff's opposition to its motion to dismiss. Having
considered the motion and legal memoranda, the record, and
the applicable law, the Court finds that the Motion for
Summary Judgment should be GRANTED IN PART AND
DENIED IN PART, and the Motion to Dismiss
should be GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN
AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
litigation derives from alleged discriminatory employment
practices by Plaintiff's former employer, Greenbrier, and
Greenbrier's former parent company, MMO. On July 29,
2015, Plaintiff was terminated from her position as a cook at
Greenbrier after she allegedly falsified time and received
compensation for time that she had not worked.
her termination, Plaintiff filed a claim against Greenbrier
with the Louisiana Workforce Commission for unemployment
insurance benefits. MMO's HR Director, Unnati Umarvadia,
represented Greenbrier throughout those proceedings. Months
later and after the proceedings before the Louisiana
Workforce Commission had concluded, Plaintiff filed a
complaint with the EEOC against MMO, alleging that she was
discriminated against based on her race, age, and disability.
Plaintiff neither named nor referred to Greenbrier in her
24, 2016, after receiving a right to sue letter from the
EEOC, Plaintiff filed a complaint against MMO in this Court,
asserting causes of action under the Family & Medical
Leave Act (“FMLA”), Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”), Age Discrimination in Employment Act
(“ADEA”), and the Louisiana Employment
Discrimination Law, La. R.S. 23:301, et seq.
(“LEDL”). After obtaining leave of court,
Plaintiff filed an amended complaint on February 6, 2017,
naming Greenbrier as a defendant. As amended, Plaintiff's
complaint states federal and state law causes of action for
discrimination under the FMLA, ADA, ADEA, and LEDL against
MMO and Greenbrier. In addition, Plaintiff alleges a state
law defamation claim against both defendants for allegedly
defamatory statements made to the Louisiana Workforce
Commission. On August 17, 2017, over six months after filing
her amended complaint, Plaintiff requested issuance of
summons upon Greenbrier. On August 24, 2017, Plaintiff served
Greenbrier with a summons and its amended complaint. (Rec.
14, 2017, MMO filed a motion for summary judgment, which
Plaintiff opposed. On September 6, 2017, the Court denied the
motion without prejudice to be re-urged at a later date. MMO
re-urged its motion for summary judgment on October 13, 2017,
and this Court granted the motion to re-urge. On September
30, 2017, Greenbrier filed a motion to dismiss
Plaintiff's claims against it. Plaintiff filed an
opposition, and Greenbrier filed a reply.
MMO's Motion for Summary Judgment
movant argues that Plaintiff has no right of action against
MMO because Plaintiff was employed by Greenbrier at the time
she was discharged from employment, Plaintiff has never been
an employee of MMO, and MMO is a distinct legal entity from
Greenbrier. (Rec. Doc. 23, at 2). For these and additional
reasons, MMO argues that Plaintiff's FMLA, ADA, ADEA,
LADEA, and defamation claims against MMO must fail.
Specifically, MMO argues that summary judgment is proper as
to Plaintiff's FMLA claim because MMO does not qualify as
an “employer” within the meaning of the FMLA
because it does not employ fifty or more employees. (Rec.
Doc. 23-2, at 2). Likewise, MMO argues that it is entitled to
summary judgment on Plaintiff's ADA claim because
Plaintiff fails to state in her complaint why she was in the
protected group or how she was disabled (Rec. Doc. 23-2, at
3) and on Plaintiff's ADEA claim because the amended
complaint fails to assert Plaintiff's age. (Rec. Doc.
23-2, at 3-4). MMO argues that summary judgment is also
proper as to Plaintiff's claim under the LADEA because
Plaintiff fails to provide the specific basis for
discrimination, noting only that she was discriminated
against on account of her disability, which is not a basis
under the statute. (Rec. Doc. 23-2, at 4-5). Finally, MMO
asserts that Plaintiff has no right of action for defamation
against MMO because the alleged defamatory statements made to
the Louisiana Workforce Commission regarding Plaintiff were
made by Greenbrier only. (Rec. Doc. 23-2, at 5). Based on the
foregoing, MMO seeks summary judgment and dismissal from this
lawsuit. (Rec. Doc. 23-2, at 6).
opposition, Plaintiff argues that summary judgment should not
be granted in MMO's favor for two reasons. (Rec. Doc. 24,
at 2). First, Plaintiff argues that MMO failed to produce
evidence to supports its contention that MMO is not a covered
FMLA employer because it does not employ fifty or more
employees, noting that “[t]he only support for this
premise is a denial contained in paragraph 4 of MMO's
answer.” (Rec. Doc. 24, at 2). Second, Plaintiff argues
that although “it appears that MMO and Greenbrier are
distinct legal entities, ” MMO and Greenbrier operate
as a single, integrated enterprise. (Rec. Doc. 24, at 2). In
support of this argument, Plaintiff references the following
documents in the record:
• The document Unnati Umarvadia sent to the Louisiana
Workforce Commission (“LWC”) on August 17, 2015,
which contains the heading “MMO Behavioral Health
Systems” listing the address 201 Greenbrier Boulevard
and identifying Ms. Umarvadia as MMO's HR Director. (Rec.
Docs. 24, at 3 and 24-1, at 1).
• The Notice of Claim Filed, which is addressed to
Greenbrier Hospital located at 201 Greenbrier Boulevard.
(Rec. Docs. 24, at 3 and 24-1, at 2).
• The Notice to Base Period Employers, which Plaintiff
states appears to be in the handwriting of Ms. Umarvadia.
(Rec. Docs. 24, at 4 and 24-1, at 3).
• The LWC request for information concerning
Plaintiff's termination, which is addressed to Greenbrier
Hospital and “*Greenbrier Holding Company LL.”
(Rec. Docs. 24, at 4 and 24-1, at 4).
• The Separation of Employment Notice, which contains an
MMO heading and indicates the program as “MMO
Greenbrier Hospital.” (Rec. Docs. 24, at 4 and 24-1, at
• The Time and Attendance Detail Report by Employee for
“ALL COMPANIES, ” which Plaintiff assumes is an
MMO form. (Rec. Docs. 24, at 4 and 24-1, at 6).
• The MMO fax cover sheet that Ms. Umarvadia sent to LWC
on August 25, 2015. (Rec. Docs. 24, at 4 and 24-2, at 1).
• The MMO fax cover sheet that Ms. Umarvadia sent to LWC
on August 31, 2015. (Rec. Docs. 24, at 5 and 24-3, at 1).
• A Notice of Claim Determination addressed to
Greenbrier Hospital and “*Greenbrier Holding Company
LL” containing a checked “I APPEAL” box and
signed by Ms. Umarvadia. (Rec. Docs. 24, at 5 and 24-3, at
• The MMO fax cover sheet that Ms. Umarvadia sent to LWC
on September 14, 2015. (Rec. Docs. 24, at 5 and 24-4, at 1).
• An email dated September 14, 2015 from Ms. Umarvadia
to the LWC appeal clerk confirming that Ms. Umarvadia will
appear at the hearing on behalf of the Employer. Ms.
Umarvadia's e-mail signature describes her position as HR
Director and references both MMO and Greenbrier. (Rec. Docs.
24, at 5 and 24-5, at 1).
• The Decision of the Administrative Law Judge, which
describes Plaintiff's employer as “Greenbrier
Hospital” and also references “Greenbrier Holding
Co., LL.” (Rec. Docs. 24, at 6 and 24-7, at 1).
on the foregoing, Plaintiff argues that summary judgment
should not be granted because there is a genuine issue of
material fact as to whether MMO and Greenbrier are
“sufficiently connected through interrelation of
operations, centralized control of labor relations, common
management, and common ownership or financial control such
that there is essentially no distinction between them for
purposes of this lawsuit.” (Rec. Doc. 24, at 6).
Plaintiff asserts that the Declaration of MMO's Chief
Executive Officer, Robert Miller, that MMO and Greenbrier are
distinct legal entities “does not address the issue of
whether MMO and Greenbrier operated as a single, integrated
enterprise for purposes of the statutes under which these
claims arise.” (Rec. Doc. 24, at 7).
Greenbrier's Motion to Dismiss
movant argues that the Court should dismiss all of
Plaintiff's claims against it pursuant to Federal Rule of
Civil Procedure 12(b)(5) for insufficient service of process
and Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim. (Rec. Doc.
36, at 1). First, Greenbrier contends that Plaintiff's
amended complaint against Greenbrier must be dismissed for
insufficient service of process pursuant to Rule 12(b)(5)
because Plaintiff failed to serve Greenbrier within the
90-day timeframe required under Rule 4(m). (Rec. Doc. 36, at
1). Greenbrier emphasizes that despite continuing litigation
against MMO after amending her complaint, Plaintiff failed to
request issuance of summons upon Greenbrier until 200 days
after the amendment. (Rec. Doc. 36-1, at 5-6). Accordingly,
Greenbrier concludes that Plaintiff's claims against
Greenbrier should be dismissed for insufficient service of
process. (Rec. Doc. 36-1, at 6).
also moves to dismiss Plaintiff's amended complaint
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) for failure to state a claim upon
which relief can be granted. (Rec. Doc. 36-1, at 6).
Greenbrier argues that Plaintiff fails to meet the minimum
pleading standard for three reasons. (Rec. Doc. 36-1, at 7).
First, Greenbrier asserts that Plaintiff failed to
administratively exhaust her discrimination claims against it
by failing to name Greenbrier in her EEOC Charge of
Discrimination. (Rec. Doc. 36-1, at 7-8). Second,
Greenbrier contends that Plaintiff's ADA, ADEA, LEDL, and
defamation claims against it are time-barred. (Rec. Doc.
36-1, at 8-11). Greenbrier argues that Plaintiff's
untimeliness cannot be cured because the amended complaint
does not relate back to the date she filed her original
complaint. (Rec. Doc. 36-1, at 11-16). Finally, Greenbrier
argues that Plaintiff's conclusory factual allegations
are insufficient to state a claim against Greenbrier. (Rec.
Doc. 36-1, at 16-18). Greenbrier emphasizes that
Plaintiff's amended complaint asserts no facts from which
the Court could plausibly infer that Greenbrier violated the
FMLA or took any employment actions based on Plaintiff's
or alleged disability. (Rec. Doc. 36-1, at 17-18). Based on the
foregoing, Greenbrier concludes that all claims asserted
against Greenbrier in the amended complaint must be dismissed
as a matter of law. (Rec. Doc. 36-1, at 18).
raises two arguments in opposition to Greenbrier's motion
to dismiss. (Rec. Doc. 44). First, Plaintiff argues that its
failure to serve Greenbrier with the amended complaint timely
is not fatal to its claims against Greenbrier because this
Court failed to notify Plaintiff of her noncompliance with
Rule 4(m) “as required” by Local Rule
16.2. (Rec. Doc. 44, at 1-2). Plaintiff also
contends that she “reasonably expected MMO to join
Greenbrier as a third party defendant pursuant to FRCP
19.” (Rec. Doc. 44, at 3). Without explanation,
Plaintiff concludes that she “acted to cure the
deficiency promptly.” (Rec. Doc. 44, at 3).
Plaintiff contests Greenbrier's assertion that it is
entitled to dismissal of all claims against it due to
Plaintiff's failure to exhaust administrative remedies,
failure to timely file, and failure to raise more than
conclusory allegations. (Rec. Doc. 44, at 4-7). Regarding the
failure to name Greenbrier in the EEOC Charge, Plaintiff
asserts that she had no information available to her at the
time of filing to indicate that MMO and Greenbrier were
separate entities. (Rec. Doc. 44, at 5). Without citing any
authority, Plaintiff concludes that her failure to include
Greenbrier “cannot be laid at the feet of the
plaintiff” because MMO was named in the EEOC Charge,
MMO “was the only party in a position to know of
Greenbrier's involvement, ” and MMO “chose to
remain silent.” (Rec. Doc. 44, at 5). Plaintiff next
argues that her failure to timely file is cured by her
amended complaint, which relates back to the date of filing
the original complaint. (Rec. Doc. 44, at 6). Plaintiff
contends that the requirements for relation back are
satisfied because “Greenbrier actually knew,
constructively knew, or should have known that
Plaintiff's action would have been brought against
it” given that “MMO's interest and
Greenbrier's interest were identical at the time the
plaintiff was terminated.” (Rec. Doc. 44, at 6).
Finally, Plaintiff argues that if the Court concludes the
allegations in the amended complaint are conclusory, an
opportunity to cure the deficiency in a second amended
complaint must be provided. (Rec. Doc. 44, at 7).
raises two points in its reply to Plaintiff's opposition.
(Rec. Doc. 48). First, Greenbrier asserts that the
responsibility for effectuating service rests upon Plaintiff,
not this Court. (Rec. Doc. 48). Greenbrier notes that Local
Rule 16.2 does not toll the 90-day period for service
required under Rule 4(m) as Plaintiff appears to suggest.
(Rec. Doc. 48, at 2). Nevertheless, Greenbrier points out
that “this Court did in fact previously warn
[Plaintiff] of non-compliance with Rule
4(m).” (Rec. Doc. 48, at 2).
Greenbrier argues that Plaintiff's failure to address the
elements required for relation back establishes that her
amended complaint does not relate back to the original
complaint. (Rec. Doc. 48, at 2-6). Greenbrier avers that
Plaintiff incorrectly focuses on the “identity of
interest” shared by MMO and Greenbrier at the time of
Plaintiff's termination, rather than at the time she
filed the original complaint. (Rec. Doc. 48, at 3).
Greenbrier argues that “[b]ecause MMO and Greenbrier
were not affiliated at the time Plaintiff filed her Charge of
Discrimination, the original Complaint, and the First Amended
Complaint (all of which occurred after November 10, 2015),
there is no basis for imputing notice [of the litigation at
issue] from MMO to Greenbrier.” (Rec. Doc. 48, at 4-5).
Greenbrier goes on to assert that even if Plaintiff could
prove there were an identity of interest between MMO and
Greenbrier at the time Plaintiff filed her original
complaint, dismissal of Plaintiff's claims against
Greenbrier is still required because Plaintiff cannot
establish that Greenbrier received sufficient notice of this
lawsuit given Plaintiff's failure to ...