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Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. CRST International, Inc.

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division

December 7, 2018

EQUAL EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITY COMMISSION, Plaintiff,
v.
CRST INTERNATIONAL, INC.; and CRST EXPEDITED, INC., Defendants.

          ORDER

          C.J. Williams United States District Judge

         TABLE OF CONTENTS

         I. BACKGROUND ..................................................................... 2

         II. MOTION TO AMEND ANSWER ................................................ 5

         III. MOTIONS TO STRIKE ............................................................ 12

         A. Applicable Law ............................................................... 14

         B. Conciliation Letter ........................................................... 15

         1. Waiver of Confidentiality .......................................... 17

         2. Federal Rule of Evidence 408 ..................................... 20

         C. Defendants' Supplemental Summary Judgment Brief .................. 20

         IV. MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT .................................... 24

         A. Summary Judgment Standard ............................................. 24

         B. Substantive Law ............................................................. 26

         C. Discussion .................................................................... 27

         1. Discrimination ....................................................... 28

         2. Retaliation and Interference ....................................... 30

         3. Damages and Jury Demand ....................................... 32

         V. CONCLUSION .........................................................37

         This matter is before the Court on a multitude of motions: 1) cross motions for summary judgment (Docs. 54, 84); 2) plaintiff's timely filed Motion to Strike Pages 69-70 of CRST's Supplemental Appendix in Support of CRST's Motion for Summary Judgment As Well As Any Related Argument and Responses to EEOC's Additional Facts[, ] Which Cite to or Reference Pages 69-70 of CRST's Supplemental Appendix and to Bar Any Future Submission of “Anything Said or Done During Conciliation” (Doc. 77); 3) plaintiff's timely filed Amended Second Motion to Strike Documents and Arguments Related to “Anything Done or Said During Conciliation” and Motion for Protective Order Barring Any Future Submission of the Same (Doc. 102); and 4) defendants' Amended Motion for Leave to File Amended Answer (Doc. 93). The parties timely briefed each of the motions and provided supplemental briefing in accordance with Court order.

         The Court's rulings are as follows: 1) defendants' motion for summary judgment (Doc. 54) is granted in part and denied in part; 2) plaintiff's motion for partial summary judgment (Doc. 84) is denied; 3) plaintiff's first motion to strike (Doc. 77) is granted; 4) plaintiff's second motion to strike (Doc. 102) is granted in part and denied in part; and 5) defendants' motion to amend their answer (Doc. 93) is denied. The Court's analysis will first address defendants' motion to amend (Doc. 93) before turning to the motions to strike (Docs. 77, 102) and will conclude with the cross motions for summary judgment (Docs. 54, 84).

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“plaintiff”) brought this action against defendants under Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Title I of the Civil Rights Act. (Doc. 19, at 1). As set forth in plaintiff's Amended Complaint, plaintiff brought this action

to correct unlawful employment practices on the basis of disabilities and to provide appropriate relief to [L.L.], a qualified individual with a disability who was adversely affected by such practices. As alleged with greater particularity below, Defendants refused to hire [L.L.] as a truck driver because of his disabilities, refused to accommodate his disabilities, and retaliated against him when he requested the use of a prescribed emotional support/service dog as an accommodation for his Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and mood disorder.

(Id.). Plaintiffs further alleged that all conditions precedent to filing suit in the instant case had been fulfilled. (Docs. 19, at 4; 42, at 4-5).[1]

         Plaintiff alleges that L.L. is a qualified individual under the ADA and that L.L suffers from impairments that are considered disabilities under the ADA, including post-traumatic stress disorder and mood disorder, which affect plaintiff's major life activities, including sleep, brain function, and ability to think. (Doc. 19, at 4). Plaintiff further alleges that L.L.'s psychiatrist “prescribed an emotional support/service animal to assist [L.L.] in coping with his disabilities and to maintain appropriate social interactions and workplace functions.” (Id.).

         L.L. applied for employment as a commercial truck driver with defendants and, at some point during the employment process, requested that he be permitted to have his dog on the truck with him while driving so that the dog could provide emotional support. (See Docs. 19, at 4-5; 42, at 6). Plaintiff alleges that defendants denied L.L.'s request to have his dog accompany him while driving, that L.L.'s request was a request for a reasonable accommodation, and that defendants refused to hire L.L. as a result of L.L.'s disabilities and need for an accommodation. (Doc. 19, at 4-5).

         Plaintiff asserts that defendants' refusal to hire L.L. constituted a violation of L.L.'s civil rights and the rights granted to L.L. under the ADA. As such, plaintiff filed suit requesting that the Court:

A. Grant a permanent injunction enjoining Defendants, their officers, agents, servants, employees, attorneys, and all persons in active concert or participation with them, from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities who use a service animal or emotional support animal.
B. Order Defendants to institute and carry out policies, practices, and programs which provide equal employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities, and which eradicate the effects of its past and present unlawful employment practices.
C. Order Defendants to make [L.L.] whole by offering him employment as a truck driver.
D. Order Defendants to make [L.L.] whole by providing appropriate back pay with prejudgment interest in amounts to be determined at trial, and any other affirmative relief necessary to eradicate the effects of its unlawful employment practices.
E. Order Defendants to make [L.L.] whole by providing compensation for past and future pecuniary losses resulting from the unlawful employment practices described in this Complaint in amounts to be determined at trial.
F. Order Defendants to make [L.L.] whole by providing compensation for past and future non-pecuniary losses resulting from the unlawful practices described in this Complaint, including but not limited to emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation, in amounts to be determined at trial.
G. Order Defendants to pay [L.L.] punitive damages for its malicious and reckless conduct, as described herein, in amounts to be determined at trial.
H. Grant such further relief as the Court deems necessary and proper in the public interest.
I. Award [plaintiff] its costs in this action.

(Doc. 19, at 6-7).

         II. MOTION TO AMEND ANSWER

         The deadline to amend pleadings in this case was initially September 18, 2017. (Doc. 29, at 1). After plaintiff filed its amended complaint, defendants sought an extension of the deadline to file a responsive pleading. (Doc. 39). The Court granted that motion and set November 29, 2017, as the deadline for defendants “to file their Answer or otherwise plead in response to the Amended Complaint.” (Doc. 40). Defendants timely filed an answer on November 29, 2017. (Doc. 42). On October 9, 2018, defendants filed their Amended and Substituted Motion for Leave of Court to File Amended Answer and appended their amended answer to the motion. (Docs. 93; 93-1). Because the time for amending pleadings has expired, permitting defendants to amend their answer would require a modification of the scheduling order. The Court will therefore treat defendants' motion as one for modification of the scheduling order.

         In support of their motion to amend their answer, defendants state that plaintiff produced discovery on April 2, 2018, and that the discovery contained certain of L.L.'s medical records, which, defendants argue, show that L.L. was not qualified to be a truck driver for defendants. (Doc. 93, at 1-2).[2] Defendants further argue that L.L. was deposed on May 18, 2018, which further alerted defendants to L.L's disqualifying medical history. (Doc. 108, at 2). As will be discussed in greater depth infra, this alleged showing led defendants to argue that all conditions precedent to filing the instant suit were not satisfied prior to plaintiff bringing suit. (Docs. 93; 108, at 3-4). In their Answer to Amended Complaint, however, in response to plaintiff's assertion that “[a]ll conditions precedent to the institution of this lawsuit have been fulfilled, ” defendants “[a]dmitted that ADA's required pre-suit process was completed before this lawsuit was filed, but denied that there is any factual or legal basis for the lawsuit.” (Doc. 82, at 4- 5). Defendants now seek to amend their Answer to Amended Complaint to “[d]en[y]” that “[a]ll conditions precedent to the institution of this lawsuit have been fulfilled.” (Doc. 93-1, at 5).

         When, as here, leave of court is required to amend a pleading, “[t]he court should freely give leave when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16(b)(4), however, provides that “[a] schedule may be modified only for good cause and with the judge's consent.” Further, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(b) provides that where a party seeks to extend a deadline that has already passed, the Court may extend the deadline upon a showing of good cause, “if the party failed to act because of excusable neglect.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(b).

         “The interplay between Rule 15(a) and Rule 16(b) is settled in this circuit.” Sherman v. Winco Fireworks, Inc., 532 F.3d 709, 716 (8th Cir. 2008). “[I]f a party files for leave to amend outside of the court's scheduling order, the party must show cause to modify the schedule.” Id. (emphasis in original) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). “When a party seeks to amend a pleading after the scheduling deadline for doing so, the application of Rule 16(b)'s good-cause standard is not optional.” Id. “The primary measure of good cause is the movant's diligence in attempting to meet the [scheduling] order's requirements.” Id. (citation and internal quotation marks omitted). “While the prejudice to the nonmovant resulting from modification of the scheduling order may also be a relevant factor, generally, [the Court] will not consider prejudice if the movant has not been diligent in meeting the scheduling order's deadlines.” Id. at 717 (citation omitted).

         As the deadline to amend pleadings was in 2017-well before defendants' motion to amend was filed-the Court is bound by Sherman's requirement that defendants show good cause for modification of the deadline to amend pleadings. Defendants assert that good cause exists to permit the amendment because defendants could not have known of the basis for the amendment until April or May 2018, when defendants contend that they learned that plaintiff allegedly failed to investigate L.L.'s allegations of discrimination. (Docs. 93, at 1-2; 108, at 5). Specifically, defendants assert that plaintiff never investigated L.L.'s medical history prior to filing suit and, as a result, defendants argue that plaintiff did not attempt to conciliate the instant claims in accordance with the ADA's requirements. (Doc. 93, at 2). Defendants further assert that they first became aware of plaintiff's alleged failure to investigate and conciliate when defendants propounded requests for production that sought L.L.'s medical records and plaintiff had to request those records from the medical providers directly. (Id., at 1-2). Had plaintiff investigated the claims prior to bringing suit, defendants argue, plaintiff would have had those medical records in plaintiff's possession at the time the requests for production were propounded. (Id.).

         In response, plaintiff contends that at the time defendants filed their answer, defendants should have known of the basis for defendants' argument that all conditions precedent had not been satisfied. (Doc. 105, at 14-15). Plaintiff bases this contention on defendants having received plaintiff's pre-suit investigation file on June 30, 2017, approximately five months prior to the date on which defendants filed their answer. (Id.). Plaintiff does not argue that it received or reviewed the subject medical records prior to defendants requesting the records during discovery. To the best of the Court's understanding, plaintiff's argument is that the absence of L.L.'s medical records in the pre-suit investigation file should have alerted defendants ...


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