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Johnson v. Ford Motor Co.

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

December 6, 2019

DeAnna Johnson, Plaintiff,
v.
Ford Motor Company, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT [#27]

          HON. GERSHWIN A. DRAIN UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         On January 17, 2019, Plaintiff DeAnna Johnson (“Plaintiff”) filed the instant sexual and racial harassment claims, pursuant to Michigan's Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (“ELCRA”) and 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and sexual assault claim, pursuant to Michigan common law, against Defendant Ford Motor Company (“Defendant”). ECF No. 1. Plaintiff purports that she was forced to take medical leave from her position as a Production Supervisor due to severe sexual and racial harassment from another Production Supervisor, Mr. Nicholas Rowan. ECF No. 1, PageID.2-3.

         Presently before the Court is Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint, filed on October 16, 2019. ECF No. 27. Defendant filed a Response on October 30, 2019. ECF No. 38. Plaintiff filed her Reply on November 6, 2019. ECF No. 42. A hearing on Plaintiff's Motion was held on December 5, 2019. For the reasons that follow, the Court will GRANT IN PART and DENY IN PART Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File First Amended Complaint [#27].

         II. Factual Background

         A. Plaintiff's Employment at Ford Motor Company

         Plaintiff's claims stem from the allegedly hostile work environment she experienced while employed at Defendant's Dearborn Truck Plant. From the outset of her employment in June 2018, Plaintiff was purportedly subjected to Mr. Rowan's unwanted comments and conduct of both a sexual and racial nature. ECF No. 27-1, PageID.397. Mr. Rowan was allegedly directed to both teach Plaintiff her duties and assess her performance as a new Production Supervisor. Id. Defendant maintains that Mr. Rowan was not Plaintiff's Supervisor. ECF No. 38, PageID.491.

         Plaintiff was allegedly subject to Mr. Rowan's behavior on a “daily basis.” ECF No. 27-1, PageID.397. Specifically, Plaintiff claims that Mr. Rowan repeatedly asked to see her breasts. Id. Mr. Rowan also purportedly called Plaintiff names, including “chocolate jolly rancher” and “chocolate treat.” Id. Furthermore, Mr. Rowan “constantly asked Plaintiff to send him naked pictures.” Id.

         Mr. Rowan's alleged verbal harassment escalated to physical harassment when he “grabbed Plaintiff's breast.” Id. Additionally, Mr. Rowan purportedly took pictures of Plaintiff without her permission. Id. at PageID.399. Plaintiff claims Mr. Rowan also sent her “numerous sexually suggestive inappropriate texts”-including photographs of himself in his underwear and of his genitals. Id.

         Plaintiff informed Mr. Rowan that if his behavior continued, she would report him. ECF No. 27-1, PageID.398. She explains that she was both “fearful of [Mr.] Rowan and his erratic behavior” and in need of her job, so she “attempted to be pleasant with [him].” Id. Plaintiff insists that she never participated in nor responded to Mr. Rowan's “lewd talk” or “disgusting demands.” In October 2018, Plaintiff reported Mr. Rowan to a manger Rich Mahoney. Id. at PageID.399. She then reported this behavior to “LaDon, ” who Plaintiff identifies as an “Assistant Plant Manager at Dearborn Truck.” Id. at PageID.400. Another supervisor, Bill Markovich, was also made aware of Plaintiff's allegations against Mr. Rowan. Id.

         Plaintiff asserts that her “extremely toxic and hostile work environment” forced her to take a medical leave of absence and she remains “medically unable to return to work.” Id. at PageID.401. Defendant advised Plaintiff in a letter dated August 22, 2019 that she was terminated. Id. at PageID.402. Plaintiff alleges in her proposed amended complaint that she was terminated “in retaliation for [her] protected activity, including this lawsuit.” Id. Defendant contends that Plaintiff's termination was a result of her failing to extend her unpaid medical leave past its April 2019 expiration. ECF No. 38, PageID.487.

         B. Procedural History

         On January 17, 2019, Plaintiff filed her initial Complaint against Defendant. ECF No. 1. Her Complaint alleges: (1) sexual harassment and sexually hostile work environment in violation of Michigan's ELCRA; (2) racial harassment and racially hostile work environment in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981; and (3) sexual assault and battery. See id.

         Plaintiff filed a Motion to Extend Discovery and Scheduling Order Dates by sixty days on August 23, 2019. ECF No. 14. This Court granted Plaintiff's Motion three days later. ECF No. 15. The fact discovery deadline was therefore extended to November 11, 2019 and the dispositive motions deadline to December 11, 2019. See id.; ECF No. 38, PageID.488. At the hearing, Plaintiff asserted that she has agreed to another deposition on December 19, 2019.

         Plaintiff now requests leave to file a First Amended Complaint (“FAC”) to include two amendments. First, Plaintiff seeks to include quid pro quo sexual harassment language in Count I's ELCRA claim. She explains that her proposed amendment “simply clarifies the quid pro quo aspect of [Mr.] Rowan's demands[.]” ECF No. 27, PageID.390. She states that her initial Complaint “provides the facts supporting this claim.” Id. at PageID.389. Second, Plaintiff moves to include an additional retaliation claim. Proposed Count IV alleges that “Defendant's retaliatory treatment of Plaintiff, including terminating her employment, was in violation of the anti-retaliation provisions” of Michigan's ELCRA and 42 U.S.C. § 1981. ECF No. 27-1, PageID.406. Plaintiff explains that this proposed amendment is a result of events that “only arose recently.” ECF No. 27, PageID.390. At the hearing, Plaintiff explained that she is not seeking any additional time for discovery for either of these two proposed amendments.

         Defendant opposed Plaintiff's Motion on October 30, 2019, arguing that the two proposed amendments to the initial Complaint are both futile and unduly delayed after the effective close of discovery. ECF No. 38, PageID.489. Plaintiff filed her Reply to Defendant's opposition on November 6, 2019. ECF No. 42.

         III. Legal Standards

         A. Motion for Leave to Amend

         Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15 governs the amendment of pleadings. In a case where a responsive pleading has been filed, a party may amend its pleading only with the written consent of the opposing party or by leave of the court. Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Defendant here does not concur in Plaintiff's Motion; it is thus within this Court's discretion whether to grant Plaintiff's Motion for Leave to File an amended complaint. See United States ex rel. Harper v. Muskingum Watershed Conservancy Dist., No. 15-4406, 2016 WL 6832974, at *7 (6th Cir. Nov. 21, 2016) (“[D]istrict courts have discretion to permit or deny amendment after a defendant files an answer to a plaintiff's complaint”); see also Zenith Radio ...


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