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Raquel Bryant v. Spectrum Brands

June 19, 2012

RAQUEL BRYANT,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
SPECTRUM BRANDS, INC., A WISCONSIN CORPORATION; AND DOES 1-100, INCLUSIVE,
DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Dennis L. Beck United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER DENYING MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE FIRST AMENDED COMPLAINT (Document 10)

Plaintiff Raquel Bryant ("Bryant") filed the instant motion for leave to file a first amended complaint on May 18, 2012. The motion was heard on June 15, 2012, before the Honorable Dennis L. Beck, United States Magistrate Judge. Ana de Alba appeared telephonically on behalf of Plaintiff. John Yslas and Nan Chen appeared telephonically on behalf of Defendant Spectrum Brands, Inc.

INTRODUCTION

Bryant filed a disability discrimination action against her former employer, Defendant Spectrum Brands, Inc. ("Spectrum"), in Tulare County Superior Court on July 12, 2011. Spectrum answered the complaint in state court on August 11, 2011. The next day, on August 12, 2011, Spectrum removed the action to this Court based on diversity jurisdiction.

On October 11, 2011, the parties submitted a joint scheduling report. According to the report, Plaintiff anticipated amending her complaint to add a breach of contract action within sixty (60) days.

On October 18, 2011, the Court issued a Scheduling Conference Order. The order did not include a deadline to amend the pleadings, but set a deadline to complete non-expert discovery for August 3, 2012, and a deadline to complete expert discovery for October 5, 2012. Trial is set for December 10, 2012.

On May 18, 2012, Bryant moved for leave to file a first amended complaint. Spectrum opposed the motion on June 1, 2012, and Bryant replied.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In November 2007, Plaintiff began working for Spectrum in Tulare County as a Human Resource Generalist. In 2008, Spectrum evaluated her job performance as effective or higher. During the summer of 2008, when Bryant was offered a Human Resources position by another employer in her hometown of Kerman, California, Spectrum offered her a four thousand dollar per year raise and a four-day, ten-hour work schedule. Complaint ¶¶ 8-10.

In November 2008, Bryant was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. She underwent emergency surgery on November 24, 2008. Spectrum learned of her diagnosis and surgery on November 20, 2008, when Bryant spoke with her supervisor and when Bryant's husband faxed documents to Spectrum regarding Bryant's surgery and need for leave. Complaint ¶¶ 11-13.

Following surgery, on November 25, 2008, Bryant requested that she be allowed to work from home while out on disability. Bryant indicated that because her husband was employed by Spectrum, he would be able to take things to and from the office. Thereafter, in December 2008, Spectrum terminated Bryant's husband from employment. Complaint ¶¶ 14-15.

On January 5, 2009, Bryant returned to work. From that date through March 2, 2009, Bryant received chemotherapy treatment while working five days per week, including several ten hour days. She also had a pump attached every Wednesday night for medicine, which was disconnected every Friday afternoon around 4:00 p.m. Bryant later requested that the pump be disconnected on Friday evenings so she could stay at the office longer. Complaint ¶ 16.

On March 2, 2009, Bryant sent an e-mail to Human Resources Manager Heidi Ellingson and Facility Leader Ken Miller requesting a reasonable accommodation for her alleged disability. Bryant asked to telecommute every other week on Thursday and Friday for a four-month period. Alternatively, Bryant asked that if telecommuting was not possible, then she be allowed to utilize intermittent leave for the same period. Bryant explained that she needed to work from home because the chemotherapy required that she commute three hours per day in addition to working ten-hour days. Bryant indicated that she preferred not to use intermittent leave. Ellingson informed Bryant that an accommodation was not feasible because the job position required her to be physically present in the office. On March 10, 2009, Ellingson sent Bryant a letter summarizing their March 2, 2009 meeting. In the letter, Ellingson allegedly misrepresented that Bryant acknowledged a work-from-home arrangement was not feasible. Thereafter, Bryant continued to work, taking intermittent leave. Complaint ¶¶ 19-23.

On April 17, 2009, Bryant learned that her cancer metastasized and that she needed 60% of her liver removed. Following a second surgery, Bryant returned to the office on June 15, 2009, but still had to undergo an additional three months of chemotherapy. Complaint ¶¶ 24-25.

On July 27, 2009, Bryant sent an e-mail to Ellingson requesting that she be allowed to work remotely on her laptop while undergoing four hours of chemotherapy per week. Ellingson responded that she was not sure if Bryant had enough work to do remotely to keep her busy and that they would have to address whether this was appropriate on a week-by-week basis. Complaint ¶ 26.

Less than one month later, Ellingson told Bryant that others noticed she was absent from Human Resources telephone meetings. Ellingson provided no additional information regarding the dates of the meetings or who noticed Bryant's absence. On August 25, 2009, Ellingson placed Bryant on a Performance Improvement Plan for allegedly missing telephone meetings on July 9, 2009, August 13, 2009, and August 20, 2009. The plan became part of Bryant's personnel file. Bryant explained to Ellingson that she was on an approved vacation during the July 9, 2009 meeting, she was in a leadership meeting during the August 13, 2009 meeting, and she was on a call with Spectrum's Information Technology department because her computer was not working during the August 20, 2009 meeting. Ellingson refused to amend or to remove the Performance Improvement Plan from Bryant's personnel file. Complaint ¶¶ 27-29.

On October 2009, Angi Larsen replaced Ellingson as Bryant's supervisor. In January 2010, Larsen completed Bryant's 2009 Performance Review and Evaluation. The only negative remarks concerned Bryant's relationships with other members of the Human Resources team due to an alleged inability to effectively communicate. Complaint ¶¶ 31-32.

On January 12, 2010, Larsen gave Bryant a final warning regarding her allegedly ineffective relationships with her peers in Human Resources and Payroll. The final warning contained issues with Bryant's performance and stated, for example, that although Bryant's attendance at weekly meetings had improved, her actual participation and involvement had been ineffective. Bryant spoke with Larsen about the final warning and requested more specific examples. ...


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