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Ray v. North American Stainless, Inc.

United States District Court, E.D. Kentucky, Central Division, Frankfort

March 18, 2014

JOHN RAY, Plaintiff,
v.
NORTH AMERICAN STAINLESS. INC., and NORTH AMERICAN STAINLESS Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION & ORDER

GREGORY F. VAN TATENHOVE, District Judge.

Plaintiff John Ray's first two complaints, which allege that his employer violated the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, were each met by motions to dismiss from the named defendants, North American Stainless, Inc. and North American Stainless. In response to these motions, Ray moves for leave to file a second amended complaint, which adds facts and adjusts claims to address the deficiencies alleged by the Defendants. Because the Court finds that Ray's Second Amended Complaint corrects any potential errors in the earlier complaints, Ray's Motion for Leave to File a Second Amended Complaint shall be GRANTED, and the Defendants' Motions to Dismiss the earlier complaints shall be DENIED, as moot.

I

Defendant North American Stainless hired John Ray in May 1999, and he worked for the company on a schedule that involved him rotating between day and night shifts. [R. 12-2 at 2]. Around thirteen years later, while he was working for North American Stainless as a Backup Turn Leader, Ray was diagnosed with Type I diabetes. [ Id. ] Specifically, Ray indicates that his diabetes "substantially limits the functioning of his endocrine system to the degree that he is required to take medication on a daily basis to maintain the functioning of that system." [ Id. ]. Pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act, Ray took a leave of absence in order to receive medical treatment for this condition. [ Id. ]

In the same month as his diagnosis, Ray informed North American Stainless that he could return to work with an accommodation of working regular day shifts rather than rotating shifts. [ Id. at 3]. Ray claims that a member of the management team informed him that the company would be able to accommodate his request. [ Id. ] However, North American Stainless later refused to provide this accommodation and did not allow him to come back to work on a straight day shift schedule. [ Id. ] On September 28, 2012, when Ray had exhausted his leave entitlement under the FMLA, North American Stainless terminated Ray's employment with the company. [ Id. ]

Ray filed a claim against North American Stainless with the Equal Opportunity Commission, and received his Notice of Rights on May 2, 2013. [ Id. at 1-2]. On July 31, within ninety days of the issuance of the Notice of Rights, Ray initiated the present action in this Court. [R. 1]. In his original Complaint, Ray raised claims against North American Stainless Inc., for violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. [ Id. at 1]. North American Stainless Inc. moved to dismiss this claim because, as verified by affidavit of its general counsel, the company did not have any employees. [R. 3]. North American Stainless, Inc. owns Stainless Alloys, Inc. and Stainless Steel Invest, Inc. [R. 6 at 2]. The partnership between these two companies operates under the assumed name of North American Stainless, which is the entity that ran the plant where Ray worked. [ Id. ] Ray has acknowledged the he named the wrong party [ Id. ], and filed his First Amended Complaint as a matter of right naming North American Stainless as defendant. [R. 5]. Ray has moved to have this First Amended Complaint relate back to the date on which he filed his original Complaint. [R. 7].

After Ray filed his First Amended Complaint, the proper North American Stainless moved to dismiss it for failure to state a claim on which relief could be granted. [R. 10]. Specifically, the Ray's former employer argues that the complaint alleges insufficient facts to show that his diabetes substantially limits a major life activity, his requested accommodation was reasonable, and that he reapplied for and was denied FMLA leave and was denied based on the company's actions. Ray opposes the motion, but also moves for leave to file a Second Amended Complaint. [R. 12]. In this most recent complaint, Ray alleges more facts about each of the alleged deficiencies and clarifies the nature of his claim under the FMLA. All of these pending motions are now briefed and ready for this Court's review.

II

A

Before addressing the more substantive matters at hand, two threshold issues merit the Court's attention. First, it is undisputed that North American Stainless, Inc., the entity named in original Complaint was not Ray's employer or the appropriate defendant. In his First Amended Complaint, Ray properly substitutes North American Stainless for North American Stainless, Inc., as the defendant in this action. [R. 5]. As such, North American Stainless Inc.'s Motion to Dismiss shall be denied as moot. [R. 3].

Second, Ray moves the Court to have his First Amended Complaint relate back to the date of the filing of the original Complaint. [R. 7]. Ray makes this motion to ensure that his amended complaint is in compliance within the ninety-day statute of limitations applicable to the ADA claim, which expired prior to the filing of the amendment. North American Stainless does not oppose this motion.

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(c) governs the relation back of amendments, and states that an amendment to a complaint relates back to the date of the original complaint when:

the amendment changes the party or the naming of the party against whom a claim is asserted, if Rule 15(c)(1)(B) is satisfied and if, within the period provided by Rule 4(m) for serving the summons and complaint, the party to be brought in by amendment: (i) received such notice of the action that it will not be prejudiced in defending on the merits; and (ii) knew or should have known that the action would have been brought against it, but for a mistake concerning the proper party's identity.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 15(c)(1)(C). It is clear that under this rule, Ray's First Amended Complaint should relate back to the date on which the original complaint was filed. As previously detailed, Ray's Complaint originally named North American Stainless, Inc., which owned Stainless Alloys, Inc. and Stainless Steel Invest, Inc., rather than North American Stainless, the partnership between those two companies. [ See R. 6]. Further, there can be no doubt that the proper entity, North American Stainless, received notice of the action and was aware that it should have been filed against it. The two entities have the same principal office and have significant overlap in company management. [R. 7 at 3-4]. Moreover, the registered agent and general counsel of North American Stainless, Inc., Nathanial Adams, is also the registered agent and general counsel of North American Stainless, Inc. [ Id. ] By way of an affidavit attached to the first motion to dismiss, Adams demonstrates his awareness of the mistake by acknowledging that North American Stainless, Inc. does not have any employees. [R. 3-3]. Thus, it is clear that North American ...


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