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Verdone v. American Greenfuels, LLC

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 24, 2017

CHERYL VERDONE, Plaintiff
v.
AMERICAN GREENFUELS, LLC, et al., Defendant,

          RULING ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT

          VICTOR A. BOLDEN UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Cheryl Verdone (“Plaintiff”) filed a Complaint alleging that her former employers, Greenleaf Biofuels, Kolmar Americas, and American Greenfuels, LLC (collectively “Defendants”) discriminated against her because of her gender and disability. American Greenfuels filed a 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) on October 14, 2016. Defendant American Greenfuels argued that Counts Three, Five, Eight, Nine, and Ten of Ms. Verdone's Plaintiff's Complaint were factually insufficient and should be dismissed. See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 48. On June 30, 2017, Ms. Verdone filed a motion to amend her Complaint, seeking to add claims for retaliation under the state and federal Equal Pay Acts. See Mot. Amend, ECF No. 85; Proposed Am. Compl., ECF No. 85-1. For the reasons that follow, Ms. Verdone's motion is GRANTED.

         I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Cheryl Verdone filed a Complaint with this Court on July 27, 2016. In the Complaint, Ms. Verdone alleged that her former employers, Greenleaf Biofuels, Kolmar Americas, and American Greenfuels, LLC discriminated against her based on her gender and disability. Defendant Greenleaf Biofuels, LLC (“Greenleaf”) is a Connecticut limited liability company with its principal place of business in New Haven, CT. Compl. ¶ 6. Kolmar Americas, Inc. (“Kolmar”), a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business at Bridgeport, Connecticut, purchased Greenleaf in 2013. Defendant American Greenfuels, LLC (“American Greenfuels”), also a Delaware limited liability company with its principal place of business in Bridgeport, Connecticut, merged with Greenleaf in December 2015. Id. at ¶ 18.

         Among the causes of action Ms. Verdone raised in the Complaint were Count Three, which alleged a violation of the Equal Pay Act of 1964, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), et. seq. (“EPA”), and Count Five, which alleged a violation of the Connecticut Wage & Hour Laws Prohibiting Discrimination in Compensation of Wages, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-75, et seq. On October 14, 2017, Defendant American Greenfuels (“Greenfuels”) filed a Motion to Dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6). In this motion, Greenfuels argued that Counts Three, Five, Eight, Nine, and Ten of Ms. Verdone's Complaint were factually insufficient and should be dismissed. See Def.'s Mot. to Dismiss, ECF No. 48.

         In her Complaint, Ms. Verdone alleged that, in June 2012, she worked for Defendant Greenleaf and was managing all of Greenleaf's human resources matters. Compl. ¶ 39. She also alleged that she developed Greenleaf's human resources department. Id. at ¶ 40. She further alleged that Kolmar, which invested in and subsequently took control of Greenleaf in 2013, hired Kevin Ovian, a male, as a “Business Director.” Id. at ¶¶ 13, 57. Kolmar allegedly paid Mr. Ovian $150, 000 a year, more than it paid Ms. Verdone. Id. at ¶¶ 57, 61. Mr. Ovian's responsibilities included human resources, though he had no experience in human resources. Id. at ¶¶ 57, 60. After Kolmar hired Mr. Ovian, Ms. Verdone allegedly “continued to manage human resources for the Defendants, including overseeing all human resources matters handled by Ovian.” Id. at 61. In August 2014, Mr. Ovian “began to take on human resources projects without [Ms. Verdone's] involvement.” Id. at ¶ 63. Ms. Verdone asked Gus Kellogg, the company's Chief Operating Officer, if she was still head of human resources. Id. Mr. Kellogg told her Ms. Verdone that her role had not changed after Mr. Ovian's hiring. Id. After this, Defendants allegedly “began to exclude [Ms. Verdone] from all high-level management meetings, including meetings related to human resources.” Id. at ¶ 64. Ms. Verdone alleges that Defendants terminated her on November 13, 2014, and challenges the termination as discriminatory. Id. at ¶¶ 85-86. After filing a Complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) and receiving a release of jurisdiction, Ms. Verdone filed her Complaint. Id. at ¶¶ 93-95.

         On October 5, 2016, after a conference with the parties, the Court entered a scheduling order that provided that Ms. Verdone would amend her pleadings by November 4, 2016 and created a discovery deadline of September 29, 2017. See ECF No. 44. On June 30, 2017, Ms. Verdone filed a motion to amend her Complaint, seeking to add claims for retaliation under the federal and state Equal Pay Acts. See Mot. Amend, 1 (citing 29 U.S.C. § 215(a)(3) and Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-75). In her proposed Amended Complaint, Ms. Verdone labeled these causes of action Counts Eleven and Twelve, respectively.

         II. APPLICABLE LAW

         A. Rule 15

         Rule 15 provides that “[t]he court should freely” grant leave to amend “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). In considering whether to grant a litigant leave to amend, the Court considers such factors as undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, undue prejudice, and futility of amendment. See Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178, 182 (1962); see also Block v. First Blood Assocs., 988 F.2d 344, 350 (2d Cir. 1993) (“The rule in this Circuit has been to allow a party to amend its pleadings in the absence of a showing by the nonmovant of prejudice or bad faith.”). “Mere delay, however, absent a showing of bad faith or undue prejudice, does not provide a basis for a district court to deny the right to amend.” State Teachers Ret. Bd. v. Fluor Corp., 654 F.2d 843, 856 (2d Cir.1981) (internal citations omitted).

         “In gauging prejudice, ” a court considers, “among other factors, whether an amendment would require the opponent to expend significant additional resources to conduct discovery and prepare for trial or significantly delay the resolution of the dispute.” Ruotolo v. City of New York, 514 F.3d 184, 192 (2d Cir.2008) (internal citations omitted). “Undue prejudice arises, ” for example, “when an amendment comes on the eve of trial and would result in new problems of proof.” Id. (quoting Fluor Corp., 654 F.2d at 856) (internal quotation marks and alteration omitted). Nonetheless, “allegations that an amendment will require the expenditure of additional time, effort, or money do not themselves constitute undue prejudice.” Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc. v. Del Monte Foods, Inc., 304 F.R.D. 170, 174-75 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (internal citations omitted). Therefore, “the fact that the opposing party will have to undertake additional discovery, standing alone, does not suffice to warrant denial of a motion to amend a pleading.” Id. (quoting U.S. ex rel. Mar. Admin. v. Cont'l Ill. Nat'l Bank & Trust Co. of Chi., 889 F.2d 1248, 1255 (2d Cir.1989)). The decision to grant or deny leave to amend under Rule 15(a)(2) is within the trial court's discretion. See, e.g., Zenith Radio Corp. v. Hazeltine Research, Inc., 401 U.S. 321, 330 (1971) (citing Foman, 371 U.S. at 182).

         One factor the court must consider is the “futility of amendment.” Foman, 371 U.S. at 182. A proposed amendment is futile if it fails to state a claim that would survive a motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). Lucente v. Int'l. Bus. Machs. Corp., 310 F.3d 243, 258 (2d Cir. 2002).

         B. Rule 16(b)

         Rule 16(b) provides that scheduling orders “must limit the time ... to amend the pleadings.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(3)(A). Once it is entered, a scheduling order may be modified only for “good cause.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 16(b)(4). The policy behind this rule is to “assure[ ] that at some point both the parties and the pleadings ...


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