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Hollars v. Roadhouse Host, LLC

United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, Indianapolis Division

August 2, 2018

JOHN GARRETT HOLLARS, Plaintiff,
v.
ROADHOUSE HOST, LLC, JOHN BRYANT, Defendants.

          ORDER

          Hon. Jane Magnus-Stinson, Chief Judge.

         John Garrett Hollars alleges that on the morning of February 7, 2016, a coworker raped him. At some point following the alleged incident, Mr. Hollars' employer - Roadhouse Host LLC, a franchise of Texas Roadhouse Development Corporation (hereinafter, “Texas Roadhouse”) - terminated his employment.

         Mr. Hollars brought suit against Texas Roadhouse in Madison Circuit Court, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as several state law causes of action. [Filing No. 1-1.] On April 13, 2018, Texas Roadhouse removed Mr. Hollars' suit to this Court on the basis of federal question jurisdiction, with supplemental jurisdiction over Mr. Hollars' state law claims. [Filing No. 1.] Shortly after Mr. Hollars amended his Complaint, [Filing No. 18], Texas Roadhouse filed a Partial Motion to Dismiss pertaining to Mr. Hollars' state law claims. [Filing No. 20.] Mr. Hollars filed both a response and an Alternative Motion to Amend his Amended Complaint, [Filing No. 24]. Both Motions are now ripe for the Court's review. [Filing No. 20; Filing No. 24.]

         I. Motion to Amend

         As an initial matter, the Court will consider Mr. Hollars' Motion to Amend. [Filing No. 24.] In his brief in support of his Motion to Amend, Mr. Hollars states that the currently-operative Complaint only included one of six paragraphs from his Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) Charge of Discrimination in this matter. [Filing No. 25 at 2.] He states that his proposed amendments would “add allegations relating to the paragraphs presented in the EEOC Charge, ” that he believes “will cure any remaining defects in [his] amended pleading.” [Filing No. 25 at 7-8.] He argues that Texas Roadhouse would not be prejudiced by the amendment because the case “is in its initial stages.” [Filing No. 25 at 8.] In addition, Mr. Hollars points out that Texas Roadhouse is already aware of the allegations he seeks to add because it has already cited to the allegations contained in his EEOC Charge. [Filing No. 25 at 8.]

         In response, Texas Roadhouse argues that Mr. Hollars' proposed amendment is “futile” as it will not cure any of the defects in the Complaint. [Filing No. 29 at 3.]

         My. Hollars' reply does not address this issue, but merely states that the Court should allow him to amend his Complaint. [Filing No. 30 at 4.]

         Generally, a motion for leave to amend a complaint is evaluated under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 15(a)(2). Alioto v. Town of Lisbon, 651 F.3d 715, 719 (7th Cir. 2011). Rule 15 provides that “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave, ” which should be freely given “when justice so requires.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 15(a)(2). The Seventh Circuit has called this standard “generous.” Arrigo v. Link, 836 F.3d 787, 797 (7th Cir. 2016) (quoting Adams v. City of Indianapolis, 742 F.3d 720, 734 (7th Cir. 2014)). However, “a district court has broad discretion to deny leave to amend where there is undue delay, bad faith, dilatory motive, repeated failure to cure deficiencies, undue prejudice to the defendants, or where the amendment would be futile.” U.S. v. Sanford-Brown, Ltd., 788 F.3d 696, 706-07 (7th Cir. 2015) (quotation and citations omitted). Only where a plaintiff seeks to amend a complaint after the deadline set in the case management plan has passed do courts apply a heightened pleading standard, under which “the moving party must show good cause.” Arrigo, 836 F.3d at 797 (quotation and citation omitted).

         In this case, the deadline to move to amend the pleadings is September 13, 2018. [Filing No. 27 at 3.] Therefore, Mr. Hollars need not show good cause in order to amend his complaint. Texas Roadhouse has only argued that amendment would be futile. After reviewing Mr. Hollars' proposed Second Amended Complaint, however, the Court finds that it alleges significantly more details than the Amended Complaint, including the date of Mr. Hollars' termination and allegations that he reported sexual harassment to Texas Roadhouse. [Filing No. 18; Filing No. 24-1.] Therefore, it is not apparent from the face of the proposed Second Amended Complaint that amendment would be futile. Accordingly, Mr. Hollars' Motion to Amend, [Filing No. 24], is GRANTED, and his proposed Second Amended Complaint is the operative Complaint in the case.

         The Court now turns to Texas Roadhouse's Partial Motion to Dismiss, which the Court will treat as applying to Mr. Hollars' Second Amended Complaint. [Filing No. 20.]

         II. Motion to Dismiss

         A. Legal Standard

         Under Rule 12(b)(6), a party may move to dismiss a claim that does not state a right to relief. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure require that a complaint provide the defendant with “fair notice of what the . . . claim is and the grounds upon which it rests.” Erickson v. Pardus, 551 U.S. 89, 93 (2007) (quoting Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007)). In reviewing the sufficiency of a complaint, the Court must accept all well-pled facts as true and draw all permissible inferences in favor of the plaintiff. See Active Disposal Inc. v. City of Darien, 635 F.3d 883, 886 (7th Cir. 2011). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss asks whether the complaint “contain[s] sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.'” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). The Court will not accept legal conclusions or conclusory allegations as sufficient to state a claim for relief. See McCauley v. City of Chicago, 671 F.3d 611, 617 (7th Cir. 2011). Factual allegations must plausibly state an entitlement to relief “to a degree that rises above the speculative level.” Munson v. Gaetz, 673 F.3d 630, 633 (7th Cir. 2012). This plausibility determination is “a context-specific task that requires the reviewing court to draw on its judicial experience and common sense.” Id.

         B. Background

         The following are the factual allegations in the Complaint, which the Court must accept as true at this time:

Mr. Hollars and John Bryant were both employed by the Texas Roadhouse in Anderson, Indiana. [Filing No. 24-1 at 2.] Mr. Hollars began his employment with Texas Roadhouse in October 2015. [Filing No. 24-1 at 2.] In November 2015, Mr. Bryant began sexually harassing Mr. Hollars. [Filing No. 24-1 at 2.] Mr. Hollars reported the harassment to Texas Roadhouse. [Filing No. 24-1 at 2.] Between November 2015 and February 10, 2016, Mr. Bryant continued to sexually harass Mr. Hollars, and each time this occurred Mr. Hollars reported the harassment to Texas Roadhouse. [Filing No. 24-1 at 2.] Initially, Texas Roadhouse scheduled ...

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