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Bell v. Lockheed Martin Corp.

June 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ann Marie Donio United States Magistrate Judge

[Doc. No. 42]


This matter comes before the Court by way of motion [Doc. No. 42] of Plaintiff, Carol Bell, seeking leave to file a Second Amended Complaint to amend the class definition, assert new individual claims on behalf of Plaintiff, and add the individual claims of two new plaintiffs. Because Plaintiff seeks to add new parties, the Court considers the motion to amend under the permissive joinder rules of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20 as well as the amendment rules of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15. The Court held oral argument on the motion and required supplemental briefing on the issues raised by the parties. The Court has considered the submissions of the parties and the arguments of counsel, and for the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion for leave to amend is granted.

The background of this case is set forth in the Memorandum Opinion and Order dated June 23, 2010 concerning discovery issues, and shall not be repeated herein. Plaintiff brings this action on behalf of a putative class against Defendant, Lockheed Martin Corporation, for gender discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 1991 as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e et seq. (hereinafter, "Title VII"). (See Compl. [Doc. No. 1] ¶¶ 72-80, 106.) Plaintiff further asserts claims for alleged violations of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, as amended, N.J. Stat. Ann. § 10:5-1 et seq. (hereinafter, "NJLAD"), on behalf of a subclass. (Id. at ¶¶ 92-98, 107.) Plaintiff also asserts individual claims for gender discrimination and retaliation under Title VII and the NJLAD. (Id. at ¶¶ 72-80, 81-91, 92-98, 99-105.)

Plaintiff seeks leave to file a Second Amended Complaint to include individual claims on behalf of two other employees of Defendant, Linda Abt and Maxine Walker, and add Ms. Abt and Ms. Walker as class representatives. Plaintiff also seeks to amend the definition of the putative class and subclass. Additionally, Plaintiff seeks leave to amend the complaint to assert allegations of employment discrimination and retaliation that were the subject of a Charge of Discrimination filed by Plaintiff with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (hereinafter, "EEOC") on September 29, 2009. By Consent Order dated April 19, 2010, the Court granted in part the motion to amend "with respect to and only as to the individual allegations of employment discrimination and retaliation of Carol Bell that are the subject of her September 29, 2009 EEOC charge and are contained in paragraphs 113 through 115 of the proposed Second Amended Complaint." (Consent Order [Doc. No. 191] 2-3, Apr. 19, 2010.)*fn1

Ms. Abt is purportedly a current employee of Defendant in the King of Prussia, Pennsylvania office in the Corporate Enterprise Business Area, who held positions at the "L5" level beginning in or about November 2003. (Proposed Second Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 42-3] ¶¶ 116-17.) Plaintiff contends that in or about December 2007, Ms. Abt was given "an unfairly negative review" by her male supervisor, Don Hauser, purportedly because of her gender. (Id. at ¶ 121.) Plaintiff also avers that on an annual performance evaluation in December 2008, Ms. Abt was given a score of "Basic," which is the fourth lowest out of five possible ratings. (Id. at ¶ 123.) Plaintiff asserts that Defendant's Enterprise Operations assigns "quotas" for each department, limiting the number of employees who may receive each level of scores on the annual performance evaluations. (Id. at ¶ 124.) Plaintiff contends that Ms. Abt's score, rather than any male comparator's score, was lowered based on the "quotas" and was not based on her actual performance. (Id.) Additionally, Plaintiff avers that Ms. Abt was not hired for two positions that were posted on the company intranet in January 2009, even though she had formerly performed the jobs of both positions simultaneously for approximately five years, and that the positions were given to two less-qualified male employees. (Id. at ¶¶ 126-28.)*fn2 Further, Plaintiff contends that Ms. Abt's department adopted a new promotion policy in July 2009 -- by which employees were required to receive performance review ratings of "High Contributor" or "Exceptional Contributor" to be eligible for promotion -- which allegedly had an adverse impact on female employees who seek promotions. (Id. at ¶ 130.) Plaintiff also avers that Ms. Abt, as a result of a reorganization in August 2009, was assigned a new position and was downgraded from an "L5" manager to an "E5" employee. (Id. at ¶ 131.) Although Ms. Abt purportedly did not have the skill set for her new position, and offered to take another position that was available and "better suited to her skill set," Defendant allegedly has not changed her job title or grade. (Id. at ¶¶ 132, 134.) Plaintiff contends that Ms. Abt's "new title that does not match her skill set will make it difficult for her to compete with her peers and receive a positive performance review rating this year," which purportedly may eliminate her ability to be promoted and may result in receiving less compensation. (Id. at ¶ 134.)*fn3

The other proposed plaintiff, Ms. Walker, is purportedly a level "E4" employee in Project Management in the Human Resources department of Aeronautics in Fort Worth, Texas. (Proposed Second Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 42-3] ¶ 135; Ex. 7.) Plaintiff alleges that since 2003, Ms. Walker has been paid less than her male comparators. (Proposed Second Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 42-3] ¶ 136.) Plaintiff also contends that in or about January or February of 2009, Defendant failed to promote Ms. Walker into an open "L5" position for University Relations Manager because of her gender, and instead gave the position to a purportedly less-qualified male employee.*fn4 (Id. at ¶¶ 137-38.)

In support of the motion to amend, Plaintiff contends that she should have the opportunity to bring all of her claims, as well as the claims of Ms. Abt and Ms. Walker, in one lawsuit rather than litigating such claims "in a piecemeal fashion with multiple lawsuits." (Mem. of Law in Supp. of Pl.'s Mot. Seeking Leave to Submit a Second Am. Compl. Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 15 and the Court's July 31, 2009 Scheduling Order [Doc. No. 42-2] (hereinafter, "Pl.'s Br.") 10.) Plaintiff asserts that she did not know of Ms. Abt's or Ms. Walker's claims and willingness to be named plaintiffs until after the First Amended Complaint was filed. (Id.) Plaintiff contends that the proposed amendment will "spare both parties the increased costs and delays associated with prosecuting and defending multiple separate actions[.]" (Id.)

In opposition, Defendant contends that Plaintiff's attempt to add Ms. Walker and Ms. Abt as plaintiffs fails to satisfy the commonality required for joinder under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20. Defendant represents that it is an "aggregate" of separate businesses, consisting of more than eighteen separate entities and numerous "subcomponents," which are purportedly organized into four distinct "Business Areas[.]" (Def.'s Response to Pl.'s Mot. Seeking Leave to Submit a Second Am. Compl. [Doc. No. 58] (hereinafter, "Def.'s Br.") 2.) Defendant asserts that each "Business Area" has its own "functional and support structure and executive-leadership team," including a Human Resources organization. (Id. at 3.) While Defendant purportedly promulgates certain Corporate Policy Statements for use by all Business Areas, Defendant represents that each Business Area "maintain[s] autonomy and discretion to implement [its] own tailored policies, practices, and procedures within those guidelines[.]" (Id. at 4.) Defendant asserts that Ms. Abt and Ms. Walker work in different Business Areas than Plaintiff, in different geographic areas, and under different management from Plaintiff and each other. (Id. at 21.)

The proposed plaintiffs also purportedly raise "separate and factually-distinct claims that challenge individualized employment decisions pertaining to different positions... with different job responsibilities... implicating different decisionmakers, and occurring in different contexts over a six-year period." (Id. at 21-22.) Defendant particularly notes that Plaintiff and the proposed plaintiffs fail to identify one decision maker common to any of the proposed claims. (Id. at 22.) Defendant also argues that Ms. Abt and Ms. Walker's claims fail to share a common question of law or fact, and that joining such claims would not promote judicial economy given the divergent factual circumstances of each claim and the different proof to be offered in support thereof. (Id. at 23, 26.) Furthermore, Defendant argues that any convenience resulting from the amendment does not outweigh the prejudice to Defendant, including the "substantially increase[d]" discovery costs and the "inevitable confusion" that would result in collectively trying "factually-distinct claims" to the jury. (Id. at 26-28.) Defendant also argues that Ms. Abt's proposed claims are futile because she purportedly failed to timely file her Title VII lawsuit, and that Ms. Walker's proposed claims are futile because she allegedly failed to exhaust administrative remedies. (Id. at 33.)

In reply, Plaintiff asserts that there is no undue delay because Ms. Abt and Ms. Walker could not have filed their claims at the time Plaintiff filed her First Amended Complaint, as the proposed plaintiffs' claims were not filed with the EEOC at that time. (Pl.'s Reply Mot. Seeking Leave to Submit a Second Am. Compl. with Supporting Mem. of Law (hereinafter, "Pl.'s Reply Br.") [Doc. No. 108] 4.) Plaintiff also asserts that Defendant fails to specify a prejudice that warrants denial of the motion to amend, noting that Defendant would be required to provide discovery in three cases rather than one if the motion to amend is denied. (Id. at 9-10.) Plaintiff further contends that a jury will be able to adjudicate the separate claims without confusion, and that there will be evidence "common and applicable" to each plaintiff and the proposed class. (Id. at 10.) In response to Defendant's assertion that joinder of plaintiffs is improper under Rule 20, Plaintiff relies on King v. Pepsi Cola Bottling Co., 86 F.R.D. 4 (E.D. Pa. 1979), arguing that the claims of Ms. Abt and Ms. Walker satisfy Rule 20 because they arise from the same allegedly company-wide policy of discrimination already at issue in this case and thus arise out of the same transaction and occurrence and share identical legal theories of recovery. (Id. at 7-8.) Insofar as Defendant argued that Ms. Abt's and Ms. Walker's claims are futile, Plaintiff contends that these proposed plaintiffs need not have pursued administrative proceedings to be named as class representatives. (Id. at 11.) Plaintiff also asserts that the filing of the class action complaint tolls these plaintiffs' time to file individual suits. (Id. at 12.) Further, Plaintiff asserts that Ms. Abt timely instituted suit by the filing of the present motion to amend, and by filing a writ of summons in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas, and that Ms. Walker need not receive a "Right to Sue" letter as a precondition to being named as a plaintiff in this action. (Id. at 12, 14.)

Under FED. R. CIV. P. 15(a), leave to amend pleadings shall be "freely give[n]" when "justice so requires." In Foman v. Davis, 371 U.S. 178 (1962), the Supreme Court articulated the policy of "freely" granting leave to amend as follows:

If the underlying facts or circumstances relied upon by a plaintiff may be a proper subject of relief, he ought to be afforded an opportunity to test his claim on the merits. In the absence of any apparent or declared reason -- such as undue delay, bad faith or dilatory motive on the part of the movant, repeated failure to cure deficiencies by amendments previously allowed, undue prejudice to the opposing party by virtue of allowance of the amendment, futility of amendment, etc. -- the leave sought should, as the rules require, be "freely given."

Foman, 371 U.S. at 182; see also Shane v. Fauver, 213 F.3d 113, 115 (3d Cir. 2000). A "trial court's discretion under Rule 15, however, must be tempered by considerations of prejudice to the non-moving party, for undue prejudice is 'the touchstone for the denial of leave to amend.'... In the absence of substantial or undue prejudice, denial must be grounded in bad faith or dilatory motives, truly undue or unexplained delay, repeated failure to cure deficiency by amendments previously allowed or futility of amendment." Heyl & Patterson Int'l, Inc. v. F.D. Rich Housing of the Virgin Islands, Inc., 663 F.2d 419, 425 (3d Cir. 1981) (citing Cornell & Co., Inc. v. ...

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