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Richards v. Wyndham Vacation Ownership, Inc.

United States District Court, D. Utah

January 10, 2018

GRANT E. RICHARDS, Plaintiff,
v.
WYNDHAM VACATION OWNERSHIP, INC., Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO AMEND COMPLAINT AND DENYING AS MOOT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR PARTIAL DISMISSAL OF THE AMENDED COMPLAINT

          TED STEWART DISTRICT JUDGE

         This matter is before the Court on Defendant's Motion for Partial Dismissal of the Amended Complaint and Plaintiff's Motion to Amend Complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the Court will grant Plaintiff leave to file a second amended complaint. Based on the anticipated filing of the second amended complaint, the Court will deny Defendant's Motion for Partial Dismissal as moot.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed this action on August 30, 2017. Plaintiff asserted violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) as well as a claim for breach of contract. Defendant moved for partial dismissal of Plaintiff's Complaint, arguing that it failed to provide notice of any state-law claims, that Plaintiff's state-law claims were preempted, and that Plaintiff's FLSA retaliation claim was inadequately pleaded.

         Rather than respond directly to the motion to dismiss, Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint. In his Amended Complaint, Plaintiff clarified his claims and affirmatively asserted claims for wrongful discharge and breach of contract, in addition to his FLSA claim. Defendant again sought partial dismissal, seeking to dismiss Plaintiff's state-law claims. Plaintiff opposes dismissal and has also sought leave to file a second amended complaint.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. MOTION TO AMEND

         Generally, once a responsive pleading is filed, “a party may amend its pleading only with the opposing party's written consent or the court's leave.”[1] “The court should freely give leave when justice so requires.”[2] “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.'”[3] Defendant argues that leave to amend should be denied because it is futile, Plaintiff has acted in bad faith, and it will be prejudiced.

         1.Futility

         Defendant first argues that Plaintiff's proposed amendment is futile as it relates to Plaintiff's second and third causes of action. “A proposed amendment is futile if the complaint, as amended, would be subject to dismissal.”[4] Plaintiff's second and third causes of action assert claims for wrongful discharge and breach of implied contract, respectively. The Court will discuss each in turn.

         a. Wrongful Discharge

         Plaintiff's second cause of action is for wrongful discharge. Before discussing the adequacy of that claim, the Court first notes that Plaintiff's use of the phrase “wrongful discharge” is somewhat confusing. Plaintiff's claim for wrongful discharge appears to conflate two distinct causes of action: wrongful discharge in violation of public policy and breach of implied contract. While both are recognized exceptions to the presumption of at-will employment, [5] they are distinct concepts and will be addressed separately. To the extent that Plaintiff is bringing a claim for breach of implied contract, that claim is adequately pleaded in the proposed second amended complaint as will be discussed further below. However, to the extent that he is bringing a claim for wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, that claim is deficient.

         “Under Utah law, there is a presumption that all employment relationships entered into for an indefinite period of time are at-will.”[6] However, “[a]n at-will employee whose employment has been terminated in violation of a clear and substantial public policy may sue for wrongful termination.”[7] The Utah Supreme Court has identified four categories of public policies that may provide a basis for a wrongful termination claim:

(i) refusing to commit an illegal or wrongful act, such as refusing to violate the antitrust laws; (ii) performing a public obligation, such as accepting jury duty; (iii) exercising a legal right or privilege, such as filing a workers' compensation claim; or (iv) reporting to a public authority criminal activity of the employer.[8]

         Plaintiff's proposed Second Amended Complaint alleges, in pertinent part, that Plaintiff was discharged “for complaining about being compelled to work on Saturdays without pay; for whistleblowing on fraudulent practices by Wyndham; and complaining of sexual harassment.”[9]The first and third allegations are deficient as a matter of law.

         In Conner v. Schnuck Markets, Inc., [10] the Tenth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of a “retaliatory discharge claim under the public policy exception to Kansas' employment-at-will doctrine” because there was an adequate remedy under the FLSA.[11] Following Conner, this Court has held that state common law claims are preempted under the FLSA where they are based on the same facts and circumstances as the FLSA claims.[12] As stated, Plaintiff alleges that he was discharged for complaining about working on Saturdays without pay. This allegation also makes up a portion of Plaintiff's FLSA retaliation claim. Therefore, his wrongful termination claim based on this alleged conduct is preempted.

         Similarly, the Utah Supreme Court has held that the Utah Anti-Discrimination Act “preempts all common law causes of action for discrimination, retaliation, or harassment by an employer on the basis of sex, race, color, pregnancy, age, religion, national origin, or disability, ” including a wrongful termination against public policy claim.[13] Thus, Plaintiff's third ...


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